Iain Henderson backs Ireland to take out frustration on England
After seeing their Six Nations hopes crumble in Cardiff, Ireland lock Iain Henderson admitted that it has been a frustrating campaign from start to finish.
Despite having lost to Scotland in the opening round, Joe Schmidt's men entered Friday's contest as favourites in a game when a win would have set up a last-day championship decider with England in Dublin.
But they were second best to a Wales side who had only beaten Italy coming in, losing 22-9 without scoring a single try.
Ulster's Henderson, who has two championship medals already, couldn't hide his disappointment.
"It's mighty frustrating to be in that dressing-room at the minute, not only now but for the tournament," reflected the 25-year-old who came off the bench in the Principality Stadium.
"We said after Scotland we needed to take it on a week by week basis and obviously this was a huge game for both teams.
"The other way around, Wales would have been in a horrific place (with a loss).
"They fronted up and I thought they were excellent.
"It was physical, all international games are physical, but with the amount of emotion building into the game from both sides, it was definitely up there."
Ireland made plenty of mistakes, the most notable of which occurred when the visitors looked set to score from a maul through Rory Best only for Robbie Henshaw to get pinged by Wayne Barnes for an illegal entry, despite it having seemed certain Ireland would cross the whitewash regardless.
Henderson, however, stressed that "finger-pointing" would get the side nowhere.
"It's difficult to comment not having seen it (the disallowed try) yet, but I was right behind Rory and I thought we were over.
"When he blew the whistle with conviction I thought 'that's us, we've scored'.
"I haven't seen what's happened. I know what the penalty was given for, but I'm not sure of the opinions on it.
"Like I'm not sure whether we'd have scored a try or not if Robbie hadn't have joined or whether or not it's a poor decision on Robbie's behalf.
"Robbie, everything he does is 110 per cent so we can't fault him there.
"We gave away a few too many penalties.
"I feel like we're quite proud of our disciplinary record, that we don't allow teams access into our game.
"But at the start of the game we gave away a penalty, three or four minutes in, and there were penalties through the game and other try-scoring opportunities, those for me were the most frustrating things in the game.
"They're small decisions, but the players who gave the penalties away, they don't mean to give them away and it's not a finger-pointing exercise,
"They're not trying to give away a penalty or trying to give the opposition ball but that's what happens sometimes.
"Wales took their opportunities when they got the penalties and played good rugby off them."
Ireland must now rally to host England on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium knowing that the motivations for the two sides are radically different.
After dismantling the Scottish championship challenge in Twickenham, England have already secured the title for a second consecutive year.
But they can repeat last season's Grand Slam in Dublin while also establishing a new mark for a Tier One nation with 19 straight wins.
While playing the spoiler will no doubt be important to many in attendance, Ireland's 2019 World Cup odds will also be under scrutiny.
The last Test before the pool draw for the tournament in Japan is made in spring, Ireland currently sit fourth in the rankings.
A defeat, coupled with a Welsh win, could see them drop out of the first band of seeds and risk finding themselves in a "pool of death" in two years time.
Against Eddie Jones's men, Henderson says Ireland will need little added incentive.
"England in Dublin is always an exciting game," he said. "It's always an exciting one for us to play in and I'm sure for the fans it's always a good one to come to.
"England games historically are always big battles, a lot of big battles, a lot of physical hits will go in, irrespective of what's on the line for Ireland, second or third or whatever way it's going to work out.
"England will be coming looking for trophies, they'll look for a win and we know that we're not going to have a home game and roll over. That's not going to happen.
"In Dublin we're definitely going to be a tough hurdle for England to overcome."