Rob Kearney: Time we put England loss behind us
On Sunday, Rob Kearney will win his 90th cap for Ireland. He is the country's most decorated rugby player, but he's seen both sides of the story during his time with the national team.
This is his 11th Six Nations campaign. There have been four Championships, two with Grand Slams, but others have been lost to injury and form. So, he is perfectly placed to sit in judgement on the current state of affairs.
Ireland go into round four against France in search of form and low on confidence. Joe Schmidt said the players were "a bit broken" by the opening weekend defeat to England and, while they've beaten Scotland and Italy since, they have yet to produce a performance that comes close to their 2018 standard.
Kearney says it's time to park the England loss.
"Joe has a very good understanding of where we are as a group. He has an ability to get a read on us early in the week; if we're off a little bit and we need our reins pulled in; if he thinks we need to be built up a little bit... we probably were a little bit broken after the English game but I think that's understandable and you'd expect that," he said.
"What you would also expect and hope for is that the game the following week, that you'd make up for it and you'd come out and produce ideally what you would have liked to the week before.
"But we've got to move on in this competition too, that English game was round one… we're moving into round four now. It's time we put it behind us."
Kearney believes the team just need one moment to infuse them with the belief they need.
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"It's quite easy to get immersed into this little rut that you can be in, to listen a bit to outside pressures and a little bit of noise, everything that goes on," he said.
"The coaches have been good at that over the last week, highlighting and reassuring us that the team we are and what we've achieved over the last 12 months. You don't lose that overnight, it's just a matter of how we can find it.
"A team's confidence can come back in one set-piece, three or four phases of play, passing is really accurate; you find the holes or the gaps that you scouted during the week, people running onto the ball at pace, you score a try at the end of it, everyone is jumping in on top of each other, celebrating a try.
"The great thing about a team lacking a little bit of confidence is that it just takes a small spark to get it back. That is what we will be hoping for early on at the weekend."
It appears strange that a team that overpowered New Zealand three months ago could lose their confidence so quickly, but Kearney says it's human nature.
"Elite athletes are no different to any other punter watching on from the stand," he said. "It is still a human person with the same thoughts, the same negative thoughts, the same positive thoughts, we are all the same, you know?
"You put a guy out on the field in front of 80,000 people, another few million people watching at home on TV, and you make a mistake, it will have that effect on anybody.
"That is where our training comes in, our confidence, little bit of sports psychology and mindfulness, the things that we do in the background to give you that ability to park it, move to the next moment and keep looking forward."