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Paul O'Connell Photo by: Google Images

Irish skipper defends Stephen Ferris after Welsh defeat ends Grand Slam hopes

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Paul O'Connell Photo by: Google Images

Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has removed any blame from flanker Stephen Ferris after the dramatic Six Nations loss to Wales in Dublin.

Ferris was cruelly sin-binned by English referee Wayne Barnes for a last minute –spear’ tackle on Welsh star Ian Evans before Leigh Halfpenny landed the resultant penalty to secure a 23-21 win.

Irish fans booed referee Barnes – who had earlier sent Bradley Davis to the bin for a similar offence – but the damage was done in a game Wales dominated everywhere bar the scoreboard.

“Stephen hasn’t said a lot,” admitted O’Connell afterwards. “But you can’t blame one player or one incident for a result like that. This is a team game and we lost the game collectively, not because of that penalty.

“I was right beside it, and I didn’t think there was a problem straightaway, but I haven’t seen it on video. I don’t think that was the winning and losing of the game.”

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O’Connell did concede that Ireland only had themselves to blame after Grand Slam and Triple Crown dreams disappeared with this home defeat.

He added: “We gave Wales a lot of ball earlier in the game that we shouldn’t have done.

“We put ourselves in a position to win the game, and we conceded eight points in the last five minutes.

“We also conceded a lot of momentum in the first-half and gave them a lot of belief. We struggled to get into the game in the first half, and you can’t give a team that length of time with ball in hand.

“Defensively, we will have some work to do. We conceded a lot of ground and yardage at times, but when we attacked, we played with intensity.”

Ireland will meet France – first round winners over Italy - in Paris on Saturday night, just six days after a bruising encounter with the Welsh.

“We have plenty of experience in the group, and we will recover to the best of our ability,” claimed O’Connell. “We need to be patient and trust our defence.”

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