Another All Black win a ‘reassurance’ for Ireland team undaunted by expectation

THE FAKE FIRS popped up all over Carton House while the hotel’s regular residents spent the weekend beating the back-to-back world champions.

The imposing garlands and numerous Christmas trees weren’t exactly going to dampen down the festive feel after Ireland made another bit of history with a first home win over New Zealand.

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Iain Henderson speaking at Carton House this afternoon. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Yet, there was a touch of the hangover feel around the Maynooth grounds too. After the heady highs of Saturday, media inquiries leaned into a sort of fear befitting the morning-after-the-night-before.

Fear for how Ireland can cope with the pressure of being top of the rugby… erm, tree. Fear for how they can back up Saturday’s performance and fear of how sickening it might feel if all this were to add up to another World Cup quarter-final exit.

Obviously, the mood was quite different from a player’s perspective, who are not built to be so fatalistic or pessimistic when there is so much to play for.

“That’s something which will just have to deal with as it comes along,” says Iain Henderson, tasked with addressing the media between the most anticipated game of the year and the visit of the USA.

“The performances leading up to the World Cup will probably indicate how we’re dealing with the expectation and pressure that you’re talking about.”

This group of players have been held – by their coaches and by one another – to the absolute highest standards for quite some time. Since Chicago, and most likely since the near miss against the All Blacks in 2013, they have had no reason to demand anything but a win against any team they face.

“Everyone’s trying to be the best, everyone’s striving to meet expectations. A win like that at the weekend is a bit of a payday, giving everyone a bit of thanks for all the effort that has been put in.”

A gift anyone would be grateful to receive.

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