Ireland veteran Rob Kearney has urged his team to put their Six Nations Championship defeat to England behind them once and for all as they head into a home clash with France this weekend.
Coach Joe Schmidt’s side have won two matches since their opening defeat to Eddie Jones’ England and still have a shot at defending their title.
Kearney admits that the Irish were “a bit broken” by the loss to the Roses and explains that confidence can dip quickly.
“Elite athletes are no different to any other punter watching on from the stand,” the Ireland full-back said.
“It’s still a human person with the same thoughts, the same negative thoughts, the same positive thoughts.
“We’re all the same. 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.
“And that’s where our training comes in, our confidence, little bit of sports psychology and mindfulness – the little things that we do in the background to give us that ability to park it, move to the next moment and keep looking forward.
“Sport is very, very psychological. Sometimes in those games – particularly the Italian game – with a lot of the mistakes we kind of went into our shell and showed our anxiety a little bit. It’s all psychological.”
However, Kearney points out that confidence can be rapidly rebuilt: “A team’s confidence can come back in one set piece, three or four phases of play.
“If passing is really accurate, you find the holes or the gaps that you scouted during the week, people running on to the ball at pace and you score a try at the end of it.
“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.”
Solari refuses to give up after Real Madrid’s shock defeat
Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari has refuted the suggestion that he will resign in the wake of his team’s UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Ajax.
The Spanish giants, who are the competition title holders and have won the last three editions in a row, suffered a shock 4-1 loss at home to Ajax on Tuesday night, exiting the Champion League 3-5 on aggregate in the last 16 stage.
The result comes on the back of consecutive defeats at home to hated rivals Barcelona last week which also knocked Real out of the Copa del Rey and effectively ended their La Liga title hopes.
"I did not come to the club in such a difficult moment to give up," Solari said in the wake of the match against the Eredivisie side.
"What we must do is remain as calm as possible in such a difficult moment and take it on with the best character.
"Madrid is bigger than any of us - it always returns - and returns even stronger."
Former Real midfielder Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui as manager in November 2018, signing a contract until 2021.
His charges are the first Real Madrid team to fall before the quarterfinal stage since 2010. Defender Dani Carvajal believes their “season is over”.
"I've never felt as sick as this, I don't know how to explain it," said Carvajal. "In one week everything has gone, and all of it after matches at home.
"It is clear the season is over but we will continue working in the league because that's what we have to do and we have to be professional."