Ireland will hope for continued improvement in their performance when they take on France at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Sunday.
Since the disappointing opening round defeat to England, Joe Schmidt’s side have got their campaign back on track thanks to consecutive wins over Scotland and Italy.
However, what remains a major talking point and worry among supporters is their respective performances in Edinburgh and Rome.
Especially against the Italians, Ireland struggled for long periods and they found themselves losing at halftime. They eventually emerged with a bonus-point victory but it certainly wasn’t pretty viewing.
The reigning champions butchered numerous try-scoring opportunities while their accuracy and execution were way off what we have come to expect.
Rob Kearney was one of those players in Rome who fell foul to uncharacteristic errors and he admits that players went into their shells a little bit as nerves got the better of him and his teammates.
“I think probably towards the back end of the game, there was a little bit of nerves,” Kearney told the media on Monday.
“People started to go into their shells a little bit. A lot of us, myself included, made mistakes during the game that were uncharacteristic and unforced and it just started to put us under pressure, put the team under pressure and then it just sort of snowballed a little bit from there.”
Kearney continued: “Again, you come back to the drawing board. You have a chat with yourself about having confidence in your own ability – you don’t become a bad side overnight, you don’t become a poor player overnight that makes unforced errors.
“You get back on the field, you work hard, you train hard, you try to get those combinations together.”
In terms of the mental state the squad is in now, Kearney admits that there are still nerves among the players but that there is also excitement due to the knowledge they are on the cusp of producing a performance.
“There’s a lot of excitement, there’s a little bit of nerves, a bit of frustration. But there’s a huge amount of confidence as well; in our ability and the type of game that we know we’re pretty close to producing. So, we’re going to be filled with a huge amount of different emotions throughout the week.
“But, the important thing for us is that when the weekend does come, there’s a huge amount of excitement to go and play rugby. We’re at home, in front of our home fans in the Aviva in a Six Nations game playing for your country. That needs to be the overriding feeling for us at the weekend.”