Devin Toner has accepted Ireland may well have let an unprecedented third consecutive RBS 6 Nations title slip with the 10-9 defeat to France in Paris.
Ireland have conceded control of the Six Nations after Saturday’s turnaround defeat, following on from their opening 16-16 draw with Wales in Dublin.
Lock Toner admitted Ireland’s tournament fate now lies out of their hands while flanker Tommy O’Donnell revealed coach Joe Schmidt told his players they are now relying on favours from their main rivals.
Maxime Medard’s late try denied Ireland a second-successive win in Paris for the first time in 89 years, and leaves Schmidt’s men unlikely to retain their Six Nations crown.
“It’s obviously out of our hands now,” said Leinster second row Toner.
“But there’s still always a chance. Look at last year - it came down to the three final games.
“But the next one’s going to be huge, at Twickenham where we haven’t won for a while. So that’s going to be massive to be honest.
“The big frustration is that it’s not in our control any more.”
Ireland will take on England at Twickenham on Saturday, February 27 in their third-round clash, but will spend the coming fallow week counting another lengthy injury catalogue.
Mike McCarthy suffered concussion, Johnny Sexton was “knocked around” in boss Schmidt’s words, Sean O’Brien damaged a hamstring and Dave Kearney will most likely miss the rest of the tournament with a shoulder blow.
Ireland’s creaking scrum effectively cost them victory, with France’s replacements Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous turning the screw at the set-piece after joining the fray in the second half.
Medard scored after France took four re-set five-metre scrums as Ireland could do little other than concede penalties under intense pressure.
Munster flanker O’Donnell revealed Schmidt told his players in the Stade de France dressing rooms that Ireland’s chances of silverware are now seriously hampered.
“Joe made it evident that we’re depending on results,” said O’Donnell.
“But like I said in this championship, you never know how the cards are going to fall.
“We’ll just have to refocus on England, recover, get back into camp and take it from there.
“We’ll see how things go; going on the two previous Six Nations championships it goes down to the final three games.
“We’ll definitely have to give it our all in the next three games and see how it goes.”