By Gregor Paul in Rome

How long disappointment can be kept as a tool probably depends on how long and how deep the suffering has been that caused it.

In Robert Burns' classic poem Tam O'Shanter, the long-suffering Kate, wife to the drunken Tam, has mastered the art of staying angry.

Burns captures this perfectly with his brilliant portrayal of her as the sulky, sullen dame sitting at home: "Gathering her brows like a gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm."


And this is now a serious question sitting over the All Blacks. The hurt they felt at losing in Dublin was significant and potentially powerful if they can nurture it, hold it and use it at the right time.

Defeat has been a powerful driver for them in the past. When they lost three games to South Africa in 2009, there was a touch of anger about the All Blacks when they met again in 2010.

They had to wait 10 months for their chance, but when the Boks came to Wellington that year they were met with a venomous All Blacks side that played with controlled fury.

All Blacks haka before the Ireland test. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks haka before the Ireland test. Photo / Photosport

They backed it up the following week in Wellington where captain Richie McCaw freely admitted he'd been storing the hurt to unleash it with purpose and meaning.

It was the same in 2013 when the All Blacks met England in November – a year after they had been smashed at Twickenham.

There was no public talk of revenge that day in 2013, but it was so obviously there it didn't need to be mentioned.

The All Blacks have a proven ability to suffer in defeat: they don't make peace with it. They endure it much like an overcooked steak – it can't be fixed and so must be joylessly chewed and resented with a supreme resolve being fostered to make sure the next piece of meat is perfect.

"I think it is great one if you want something positive from the negative," says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.


"People being uncomfortable is certainly better than being too comfortable. You tend to find people work a little harder and definitely look in the mirror a lot better and all of us will be doing it over the summer."

But for how long can they simmer? The long-suffering Kate had Tam's daily love of getting fou with Souter Johnny to give her an outlet for all that pent up frustration, but the All Blacks perhaps need to be wary about how and when they unleash.

It probably won't do them any good to let it all out of the system this week in Rome. Some of it will inevitably leak despite the probable heavy change in personnel.

Kieran Read of the All Blacks after losing to Ireland in Dublin. Photo / Getty
Kieran Read of the All Blacks after losing to Ireland in Dublin. Photo / Getty

It's forever been the All Blacks way to make a response to defeat no matter who is next in line.

But the heavy duty angst and pain inflicted by Ireland has to be carefully stored so it doesn't perish and perhaps used at the World Cup.

"I know it will fuel the fire for a lot of this week," says All Blacks hooker Dane Coles.

"You can talk about the Rugby World Cup but personally I am not thinking about that. There might come a time when we pull it out of the drawer and use that feeling that we had on Saturday to get up for the week and we might cross paths [with Ireland] we might not.

"The boys are hurting and that is understandable because we didn't get the result. It is about using that emotion and hurt for this week. Get a performance this week and then come the World Cup – if we face them – then maybe we can use what happened last week."

The prospect of that drawer having to be opened is potentially real as the All Blacks face South Africa in their opening pool game at the World Cup and if they don't win it, they could be heading straight into Ireland's path.

"We get four opportunities to play the 'normal sides' when we get home, Australia twice, Argentina and South Africa," says Hansen.

"The dress rehearsal against South Africa will be great in Wellington, it is going to be a massive game that first one because whoever wins that gets a slightly easier ride if they can win the rest of their pool games.

"If you lose it, you are likely to play someone like Ireland in the quarter-final. That's how strong the World Cup is going to be. It will be a beauty and I am looking forward to it already. Can't wait."