BRIAN O’DRISCOLL cast a forlorn figure in the immediate aftermath of Ireland’s last-gasp defeat to New Zealand in Christchurch.
Head clasped disbelievingly in hands, it appeared the centre’s brush with the ambition of a lifetime – to captain Ireland to an historic first victory over the All Blacks – had robbed him of his usually robust optimism.
Speaking to journalists during his customary post-match press conference, the 33-year-old suggested defeat, even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances, can offer a template for future success:
“I think you have to [take the positives]. It’s difficult when it’s raw, 40 minutes after the final whistle. It’s difficult when you’ve fought your way back into the game – you’re level on the board, they’re a man down for the seven or eight minutes – to see all the positives, but I’m sure when we look back on the video, there’ll be plenty of them.”
Indeed, according to O’Driscoll, his side already has a worthy outlet for its frustration: next week’s third Test in Hamilton. With salutary lessons from each of the series’ first two fixtures well and truly learned, Declan Kidney’s men have an opportunity to end their season on a high.
“We’ve got one more go next week; it’s definitely a positive. We don’t have to finish our season [on a loss]. We’ve got to give ourselves an opportunity of going to Hamilton and doing what we’ve essentially failed at today.”
A close-fought affair decided, essentially, by the individual brilliance of New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter, Saturday’s second Test stands in stark contrast to the preceding week’s encounter, during which a rampant All Black line-up coasted to a 32-point victory.
Though Ireland failed to exact revenge, O’Driscoll believes his team managed to restore its competitive dignity:
“We set standards of ourselves and we’re trying to be a consistent team. We dipped below those standards last week, individually and collectively.
“The jersey deserved a little bit more from us and we talked about that this week. Trying to restore a bit of that (pride) in the jersey and I think we did manage to do that. We fell at the final hurdle still.”