Losing our captain left us lacking in leadership

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The Independent Online

It's difficult to make excuses for what happened on Saturday. Quite simply, we were beaten by the better team on the day. No more, no less. In no way did we deserve to get anything out of the game.

It's difficult to make excuses for what happened on Saturday. Quite simply, we were beaten by the better team on the day. No more, no less. In no way did we deserve to get anything out of the game.

Every single thing in the match seemed to go against us, from Brian O'Driscoll and Richard Hill departing early, through to the line-out. Even when we blocked down about five of their kicks, they were still onside, so we were always on the defensive.

Losing Brian was bitterly disappointing for him on a personal level. But I don't think you could argue that it had any effect on the match whatsoever. Even if he's been on the pitch for the full 80 minutes, the fact that the backs weren't getting any decent ball worthy of the name would have made it nigh on impossible for him to make a decent impression.

What happened to Brian looks absolutely terrible. They spear-tackled him and I find it hard to believe that the citing commissioner saw nothing wrong with the incident. It's a very strange decision to say the least.

To lose our captain was probably more decisive than losing a wonderfully creative player, given the paucity of quality ball the forwards were able to provide. Gareth Thomas seems like a good call to replace Brian; he's an inspirational and honest fellah. But there did seem to be a lack of leadership out there at times last Saturday.

A couple of strange decisions were made, for instance, that crossfield kick which put us under pressure on our own line eventually cost us the first try when we made another mess of a line-out. But it's easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight. If a few things had come off, we'd be telling a different story.

We picked a good line-out team but it just didn't work for us on the day. It was the last thing we expected to happen. I can't really comment on the selection of the backs because we didn't give them enough ball. As players, we have to take the ultimate responsibility for that. We've had days like this with Ireland - we went to pot against France this season.

I wouldn't put too much onus on Shane Byrne - we were all culpable. The try from the line-out stood out like a sore thumb - Shane just didn't get the call. He thought he heard something else. It happens.

We had a combination of problems, poor execution in lifting, a few missed calls. The All Blacks had so much time together. They had our number. I was disappointed with the new line-out calls. That's really killed us. Chris Jack is one of the best in the world. Ali Williams had a blinder too. Myself and Jack had a battle, taking each other in the air. Pity mine cost us three points.

The sin-binning was a sacrifice too. I knew I was offside but I knew how much pressure we were under and I gambled on just losing three points, not seven.

We've it all to gain and all to lose next Saturday. If we win, it's 1-1 and we're counting down to the biggest game in our careers the following Saturday. If we lose, the series is over. Simple as that.

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