ON the back of a run of 12 games unbeaten, you could excuse both Declan Kidney and Brian O'Driscoll for forgetting what it feel likes to come into a post-match press conference as losers. Maybe it was easier to do humility when it wasn't one of those agonising defeats, so coach and captain refused to clutch at any straws.
The only time Kidney pondered what might have been was when he considered Gordon D'Arcy's chip-and-chase on the 15-minute mark which ended in the ball bouncing frustratingly away from the centre.
"The venue really is very difficult and when France went 14 points up they were able to play a different type of game. The boys stayed at it, but they were able to exert pressure, pin us back and pick off those penalties and drop goals during the second half.
"A load of little things cost us in the end. It really is a game of inches. We have no excuses. Maybe the way the ball hopped for Gordon. But it's maybe, maybe. Things didn't happen for us."
The only time a philosophical O'Driscoll shifted just a little uncomfortably in his seat was when the man from L'Equipe wanted to know what the mood in dressing room was like, and if this defeat might mark the end of a cycle for Ireland.
"There's no feeling that we're at the end of a cycle," explained the captain emphatically. "There's huge disappointment among the players, and we haven't felt that for over a year. A result like that is grounding. We're not infallible, so it's been a reality check. We realise that everything didn't go to plan, but if we get another chance to put on a green jersey we've got to out and put those small things right."
Asked if he thought that the French pack held the key to the victory, O'Driscoll reckoned it had been an impressive all-round performance. "You've got to give them credit. They were physical, they attacked us and their forwards produced some good go-forward ball. It was an all-round display."
On a similar theme, there was a query about whether France were potential Grand Slam champions which, after all, is something that the captain is now well qualified to expand on. This time though, he wasn't getting ahead of himself.
"If they play like that, it'll certainly take a good team to beat them. But you've got to do it five times in the championship, they don't hand out Grand Slams after two games. Still, that was pretty effective stuff."
A little earlier, the France coach, Marc Lievremont, had been holding forth – a tad reluctantly mind – on what the remainder of the Six Nations might hold for his team. "The next match is always the hardest. Winning three games in a row is difficult, we've talked about that before," he said. "We're going for that in Cardiff, but it won't be easy. It was proud of the players, but we weren't looking for a landmark performance. We're looking for continuity."
For someone who on occasions has made Claudio Ranieri look like a stickler for similar line-ups week in, week out, Lievremont got away with that last remark. Probably an example of the latitude that comes with such a ruthless display.
There was also a fulsome tribute to his half-backs, Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc, who controlled the game. "I'm very happy for both of them. Although it's difficult to single out players, we had an exceptional partnership out there. They played with real intelligence."
Kidney mentioned that Rob Kearney had injured his knee, Leo Cullen had tweaked his ankle, and that John Hayes had taken a knock on the head, but again, there were no excuses. "When they scored their second try, Rob was lying on the ground injured, but we've got to learn how to deal with those things."
And that was that. The Stade de France is a cold, impersonal place at the best of times. Last night, Ireland and those Grand Slam dreams were well and truly frozen out.