"I'm sure there will be lots said about us as players and as a team over the coming weeks" - Rob Kearney 5 months ago

"I'm sure there will be lots said about us as players and as a team over the coming weeks" - Rob Kearney

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt believes "genuine" fans will understand a good team are enduring a rough patch and will do all they can to get it right for Japan.

Rob Kearney, one of Ireland's longest serving players, is expecting a tougher reaction.

The Ireland fullback has endured a frustrating Guinness Six Nations championship, missing the England and France games through rotation and injuries, while he has been part of a team that has only performed in fits and starts.

Last March, Kearney stood in Twickenham after becoming, along with Rory Best, the first Irish player to claim two Grand Slams in his career. There would be further success up the road - a double with Leinster - while the Louth native claimed he was as greedy for silverware as ever.

12 months on and Kearmey stood in the mixed zone as we asked him just what had gone wrong for a side that went into the championship as heavy favourites.

"It's pretty disappointing," he began. "Wales played pretty well, to be fair to them. Their defence is very good. Discipline was quite poor and they just kept the scoreboard ticking along nicely. All of a sudden, we had a big old mountain to climb.

"I think handling errors, the conditions have a huge amount to do with it. Kicking errors, yeah it was a little bit breezy out there but they put us under a fair bit of pressure too. You know, we didn't get a huge amount of return off our kicking game."

Ireland ratings(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Ireland got very little return all afternoon in the Cardiff drizzle and, for the second time in six weeks, were soundly beaten by a close rival. Kearney was asked by SportsJOE if he had any words to assure the Irish fans this squad of players could turn the corner. He replied:

"Yeah, you know we had this incredible year last year. After every game, we always said, 'Listen, the margins are small. The margins are small'. We've done really well to win, and then this year we have come out the other side of that.

"Now, albeit the manner in some of the games, you can't say that the margins are small because, you know, there have been a couple of heavy enough defeats. But, you know, we still have a huge amount of confidence in how we are as a team, in terms of what we can achieve as team. We just need to be realistic that there's lots of other really good teams out there too."

Kearney and the rest of his colleagues hung around on the sidelines, after their 25-7 loss, to watch Wales lift another Grand Slam trophy, and the rest of the burnished pots that come from beating all five opponents.

"You have to bank all these tough days," he admitted. "There's no doubt about it, today was a tough day. It was tough watching one of your competing nations lift trophies.

"So, that is a memory... it's a picture that will live with all of us us a long time over the next few months, and it will be brewing away. We just need to make sure we can use days like today to our advantage."

Asked if he was expecting Ireland to receive a backlash from a disenfranchised public, back home, he responded:

"Yeah, I'm sure there will be. You know, there was a huge backlash after the England game. There was a little bit of a backlash after the Italian game, albeit we had won with a bonus point. Hadn't played particularly well.

"I'm sure there will be lots said about us as a player and as a team over the coming weeks. But that's part of being professional athletes as well. We just need to come together, close rank a little bit and never lose focus with how good we are as players, and as a team."

The final questions he faced before he was brought back to the rest of his squad revolved around faults not being fixed out on the pitch and that dreaded roof being left open.

"A lot of the faults were discipline and handling errors that were within our own control," he said. "You don't necessarily need to look to your leaders to find solutions to that. With those things in particular, they are individual responsibilities and, yeah, conditions made it pretty tough in terms of our handling."

As for the open roof...

"Ah, it didn't really bother me too much, to be honest... You know, we can't go looking for excuses now."

A whack of reality as painful as it comes.