Six Nations Rugby: Ireland putting history aside, says Rob Kearney
Rob Kearney has defended Ireland's inability to convert intense pressure into tries in Saturday's 23-16 defeat to Wales, which cost Joe Schmidt's side a Grand Slam chance.
Full-back Kearney claimed Ireland are not "massively underperforming in comparison to other teams" when it comes to try-scoring.
The Leinster star is adamant Ireland can still retain their RBS Six Nations title, with Scotland left to play in Edinburgh on Saturday. Ireland can still record back-to-back championship victories for the first time since 1949 this weekend, but the title destination could again be decided on points difference.
Kearney pledged that Ireland will treat the Scotland game as a Test match in isolation, rather than worry about what will be required to retain their title.
"If you look across the board at the other teams, I don't think it is an area where Ireland are massively underperforming in comparison to other teams," said Kearney. "The amount of tries scored in this competition, right across the board, over the last four rounds has been quite minimal.
"While it is frustrating a little bit that we are not scoring those tries, sometimes you have to look where the other teams are and if you can see there is a little bit of a trend, it eases that frustration a little bit."
Kearney admitted securing a second straight Six Nations title would confirm Ireland's place in history for all time - but said that is as far as any thoughts of rewriting the records books will stretch this week.
"History and records are always very nice: once you have achieved something it is there in the history books for life but we can't focus at all on those things," said Kearney.
"It is hugely important that we are focused on this one 80 minutes and whatever happens outside that will happen."
Wales beat Ireland at their own game in Cardiff on Saturday, dominating the aerial battle before easing home through Scott Williams' try.
Wales boss Warren Gatland put one over compatriot and Ireland boss Schmidt, but Kearney rejected the notion of any negative thoughts permeating the squad.
"Without a doubt," said Kearney when asked if Ireland can still claim the title. "We need some things to go in our favour but winning this game is more the focus than winning the championship.
"If we win this game we are in with a chance of winning the championship.
"There's no pessimism within the squad. I think when you lose games and you underperform, you're going to get criticism and some of that is probably warranted.
"So I'm not surprised at the criticism but we're fully aware of moods within our own camp and the main thing for us is that there's no pessimism.
"The points difference is out of our control: we won't be focusing in any way on the outcome, or points difference. We have to be really professional and treat this just as a one-off game.
"As soon as you start talking points difference you disrespect the Scottish. That's something we don't want to do, and if we do we'll be punished for it."