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We need fear no-one now, says Fitzpatrick

By Niall Crozier

The face of Ulster tight-head Declan Fitzpatrick – who made a barnstorming entrance with three great carries having been introduced from the bench for the final 15 minutes – told the story of a match fought to the finish with nothing held back.

"It is heartbreaking; we almost got over the line but we don't want to be an almost team," he said.

"We went out there to win the game.

"I think the boys can be very proud of themselves for the way they applied themselves and that's the benchmark now.

"In the past we've played like that and we've dropped away so I think the measure of this team now is how we respond the next time we come together and play together – that we deliver a similar performance to that."

With less than a minute on the clock, referee Nigel Owens penalised Ireland, with that decision giving rise to the patient, phase-building passage which ultimately proved decisive.

"The referee had spoken to us about getting back to our feet at the ruck previous. It seemed to me like a pedantic penalty, really – he hadn't called it all day.

"I don't know who he gave it against but he gave it for going off our feet at ruck time," Fitzpatrick explained.

"But it was in our hands, it was in our destiny and unfortunately we were the ones that made that mistake and New Zealand proved why they're the best team in the world – they took their opportunity and they won the game, so credit to them."

Fitzpatrick was not interested in talk of pride.

"I don't think there's a feeling of pride," he replied when asked how the Irish players felt.

"When we come together we have expectations of ourselves now. If you look round the dressing room there's no reason why we shouldn't be competing against New Zealand because we've so much quality there.

"You can have as much pride as you want but no-one wants to be a proud loser. And with the quality we've got we proved that we're more than capable of delivering at Test level.

"But we've come up short – let's hope we can build from this now and move on as a team."

When the question arose as to whether Ireland, in the end, had been beaten by sheer exhaustion in view of their phenomenal tackle count, he said: "I think so, yeah.

"But I was chatting to Keith Wood up in the box there and he made a good point – Ireland hadn't beaten France for 20 years and then they lost by two points and then they lost by one.

"They (the players who finally won) had to be calm in those last 10 minutes.

"The opposition are hurting as well so you need to keep a cool head. And if we can do that, we will deliver because we've got the quality, we've got the players. It's encouraging to see us play like that. It's just a case of cutting out a couple of errors there and getting over the line."

When asked if, after a performance like that, he wished Ireland had another Test coming next weekend, he said: "Yeah. You kinda wish you could play New Zealand again next weekend.

"It's a bit like the George Groves fight – I'm sure he wants a re-match pretty soon.

"But these tests don't come round that often against the world champions so we'll just build now.

"Over Christmas we'll be back in together and I think the true measure of this team will be the first game of the Six Nations."

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