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Andrew Trimble: Ireland must back up thrilling triumph

David Kelly

Dawn breaks at Carton House and two men of Ulster hit the Montgomerie course. Andrew Trimble cannot confirm that Rory Best nearly drove the first.

Then again, it's easy to believe anything is possible with this squad now.

"It feels pretty special," said Ulster wing Trimble, part of Ireland's historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago on Saturday. "It still hasn't fully sunk in what we managed to achieve. We're still kind of pinching ourselves. Myself and Rory were trying to come to terms with just how big an occasion it was.

"The performance, the atmosphere at the game, Chicago in general. It was a really special week and a really special weekend for everyone involved.

"So we are trying to enjoy it for what it is and then trying to get back to a bit of normality and another game this weekend."

That's the problem with history. It's, well, history. Canada may interrupt this November's mouth-watering mini-series but already the rematch with the world's No.1 side looms large.

In chastened New Zealand, they are labelling it "Takedown Two".

Ireland climbed to fifth in the world rankings after their stunning success but that statistic itself reflected Irish history.

Although Joe Schmidt's men have twice conquered Europe, their successes against southern hemisphere sides may have been fruitful but they remain stubbornly fitful.

History beckoned once more in South Africa last summer when they won their first ever Test match on African soil but ultimate success was denied by two successive defeats.

Now comes the time to write more history; only 11 teams have won back-to-back Tests against New Zealand in the same year; South Africa, twice, in 1998 and 2009, and Australia, also in 1998, the only to do so in the professional era.

"A lot of sides can produce a big one-off performance but if we are going to challenge ourselves to be competing with southern hemisphere teams and England, then we have to back it up," Trimble (pictured with Craig Gilroy) conceded.

"That's a big, big challenge. All your energy just goes into one massive, big effort and you just fall flat on the floor exhausted knowing that you have achieved something special.

"To get up and go at it again, put in the same amount of homework and train as hard and know the game plan inside out like we did, is a challenge.

"Realistically, as well, you need to go beyond that level because they will perform better than we did on Saturday because they will be hurting.

"They are a very proud group of rugby players and they will be devastated. They will come with a massive backlash and we will have to meet that and go beyond that."

The rarity of defeat - and the even rarer presence of the feat being immediately repeated - confirms that New Zealand are armed with extraordinary mental resilience, aside from the renowned rugby ability that was so utterly undermined by Ireland's rapacious performance.

How much their confidence will be affected remains a moot point; how much Ireland's will be boosted is also uncertain.

For Trimble reveals that the Irish squad were constantly wrestling doubt before and even during Saturday's win.

"Hopefully we can bring the right amount of confidence. Confidence in ourselves. It's a little bit of a wrestle," he said.

"Psychologically, you are sort of wrestling with yourself, trying to convince yourself to believe that we were capable of doing that.

"And you are wrestling with those doubts in the run up to the game as well, which is very understandable when you are facing a side like they are, one of the best sides in history.

"We had enough belief in ourselves that we could do it, that we could get over the line. We achieved something really remarkable. So we have learned from that that we can believe in ourselves and know we are capable of in the future.

"But at the same time, we know we are only capable of that performance whenever we put the work in and get our head space right.

"So there is a balance to strike in having the right amount of belief and then taking confidence from that.

"When they scored early on, don't get me wrong, that mentality is not perfect. There are doubts.

"They score after three minutes and you are wondering if you are going to be under the cosh for the next 80 minutes. This could unravel here!

"But we showed that mental fortitude to step up and take ownership of the game. That is something we are very proud of.

"But at half-time, everyone is thinking the same thing. This is going the same way it did before.

"It's very tempting to pay lip service to stuff, for it to be a cliché, keep positive, keep attacking them, keep going at them. But in the back of your mind you are going, 'Please, can we just hang in for 40 minutes?'

"But we had a number of leaders who made crucial tactical decisions. Rory, Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray, these guys stood up and were brave.

"We went at them and called plays that were going to make us uncomfortable.

"Because if you get them wrong, you are under the cosh. But if you get them right? Simon Zebo puts that chip up the line at the end and puts us in a great position. We stood up and took the game to them."

Now they must re-set and attempt to do it all over again.

"It's just so difficult to go out with a positive mindset and to believe that it's possible to beat the All Blacks because hardly anybody does it," added Trimble.

"You're wrestling with yourself mentally to go out there with the mindset to try and convince yourself that you're good enough to do it.

"People laugh at you if you say to them, 'we're going to go out and beat the All Blacks at the weekend'. It's not something that just happens."

But it did. Only they can decide if it can happen again.

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