The Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan had some unwelcome news for his weary team yesterday as they recovered from a 34-23 loss to New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.
"It will be tougher next week," O'Sullivan said, no doubt prompting some long looks from a battered pack in particular.
"New Zealand will be better," he added, before saying that his team "were consistently pinned back and having to defend for long phases" during a match in which a first win over the All Blacks at home or away seemed within reach for long - and energy-sapping - stretches of time.
Brian O'Driscoll and the wing Andrew Trimble scored tries and with Ronan O'Gara in good form with the boot the tourists entered the last 10 minutes 23-15 to the good. Unfortunately Luke McAlister, Dan Carter's stand-in at fly-half, then kicked four penalties and Troy Flavell gallumphed over for a lock-forward's try to seal the win for a team the coach Graham Henry described as "rusty".
If Doug Howlett and Mils Muliaina's earlier tries were "rusty", and if O'Sullivan is right that the All Blacks will improve next week, the match in Auckland should be well worth watching. For anyone who isn't Irish.
Scotland were left similarly exhausted by their 36-16 defeat against South Africa in Durban.
"It was South Africa in South Africa," said the beaten captain, Jason White. "They got a really hard time in the build-up to the game and they came out determined to prove their people wrong. They are a big team."
Too true - the veteran prop Os du Randt is about as sizeable as the tanks he used to drive. White continued: "France and England are big as well, but we were not as aggressive as we were against them in the Six Nations."
Also true, although the Scots were not given too many chances to work up a head of steam. Schalk Burger, Breyton Paulse, Andre Snyman and Percy Montgomery scored tries for the Springboks, the latter adding 16 points with his boot. Simon Webster got a late consolation try for the Scots, to add to 11 points from Chris Paterson.
In Toronto, England's interestingly-named second-string, the Saxons, beat Canada 41-11 in the Churchill Cup. "It was a good Test match because it was feisty," said the Saxons' coach, Jon Callard. Canada's feisty lock Matt Phinney was sent off late on, for punching.
Delon Armitage, twice, Richard Haughton, Kai Horstmann, Chris Bell and Ben Woods scored the Saxons' tries, the clubless fly-half Dave Walder kicking 11 points.Reuse content