An unimpressed Jamie Heaslip cut a dejected figure after France went toe-to-toe with France yesterday. He gave a candid response to the agaonising defeat which ended Ireland's championship hopes before it built up speed. "They won. They are still on course to win a Grand Slam. We can't. But I think if anyone is looking at that video we have exposed a lot. You guys have them all hyped up thinking that they are the dog's b*****ks. Well I don't think they are. We have exposed a lot of holes and I think England can definitely cause them a lot of problems."
While Ireland were clinical in breaching the French defense, they conceded nine penalties, seven of which where within kicking distance for Morgan Parra and later Dimitri Yachvili when he was introduced. "Penalties, turn overs," commented Heaslip, "two tries ahead and their still in the game. They get a try and they're ahead. We get a try and they're still ahead. You We played some very good rugby and there are lot of positives. We created chances and caused problems with the ball. A lot of positives, but the negatives are that when you score three tries to one you usually win the game."
Ireland will hope to have Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris fully fit for the trip to Scotland and with Rob Kearney also to return in the coming months, Heaslip believes they will bounce back.
"You have got loads of lads still injured and they are just biting at the bit trying to get back - just like myself. It was a novelty feeling a bit of pain this weekend. I have been sitting around watching games which I am not good at and it was good to get out there and I am sure from talking to Fez (Stephen Ferris), Tommy (Bowe) and some of the other guys, everyone just wants to get out and play.
"Nobody likes sitting on the couch watching games. It is not the easiest thing to get back in the squad. There is a lot of competition there and lads pushing for places and that is what we want, in the year that we have to rely on a squad. The way rugby is you have to rely on the squad. Going forward we have a very strong squad."
While defeat to a French team whose performance was rated 4/10 by their coach Marc Lièvremont could draw some disenchanement, Heaslip has no fears for Ireland going forward. "My own personal belief in the team is that there is no lack of belief, no lack of confidence. We have an exceptionally good group of players here in Ireland. One of the main reasons of me staying around is I think we are on the verge of doing something great.
"We're playing some unbelievable rugby. At times, we give teams easy opportunities to take scores and that can be frustrating and we have to marshal ourselves. Our defense and attack take care of themselves."
It may have been a fine performance in outscoring the French by three tries to one, but despite the what ifs, France still won while playing very poorly. Ireland played some brilliant rugby, but failed. If only Gordan D'Arcy hadn't allowed Aurelien Rougerie steamroll him following the French scrum in the run up to Maxime Medard's try? If only Sean Cronin hadn't knocked on with minutes remaining? If only Jonathan Sexton had kicked the second conversion to stretch Ireland's lead before half time?
Declan Kidney mentioned France's Top 14 professional teams, compared to Ireland's four, in the run up to the defeat. It may be a question about how far this team can go. There is no doubting their ability in the Autumn internationals against the Tri Nations sides (New Zealand and South Africa) and France, but the fact remains. Ireland still lost. Heaslip and Kidney both rejected any thought of casting the type of rugby that they are playing aside. That is good for the entertainment value of Irish games - everyone wants to see running rugby. However, they have to learn to win ugly against big teams, if that is what is called for.
Heaslip still believes in the type of rugby Kidney has brought to the team.
Heaslip thinks Ireland will come good. "We have a very good team. I think we are on the cusp of playing our best rugby that I have been involved in. They just show how clinical they can be. You make a mistake, they have got some brilliant kickers, they'll take the three points and keep ticking that scoreboard over. Or they make one line break and score a try. You can't deny a team being that clinical. They didn't let many penalties away so I can't take it away from them."
We are still scoring tries. Its nicer to attack then to defend, but I have faith in our defensive system. I think we have a very good defensive system. We can take a lot of pressure from teams. Around the ruck area we can cause a lot of problems. Around the tackle I think we are very strong. On the flipside, in attack we can be very good. We can play a very expansive game where you saw when we got closer to the 22 and we had to tighten it up that we were still able to create quick ball and when we did we were able to score a try. I think we are fairly comfortable on both sides of the coin."
Having showed some signs of playing well against France in their tournament opener, Scotland face Ireland on the back of a second defeat to Wales at the weekend. It will be a ferocious battle of two teams with two different aims. Ireland want to build for a proper shot at the world cup in mind. Scotland under Andy Robinson want to restore some pride in the jersey. The stage is set for a showdown in Murrayfield.