Tommy Bowe insists Ireland have a bright future despite a 3-0 series loss to New Zealand.
The 2009 Lions wing, who joined Ulster in the off-season, missed the tour due to a hip injury.
But he was impressed by Ireland’s slender second-Test defeat and reckons the crushing 60-0 third Test defeat was not a fair reflection of the progress made.
"Of course I watched it," Bowe told the Examiner.
"It was very difficult, I thought at stages in the second Test they were going to do it. I didn’t know what way to think, I wanted to be in there.
“To see them so close and then to see what a class side New Zealand showed they are – not playing their best rugby, down to 14 men and still able to grind out a win.
"You could just see how deflated the lads were after that in the last Test and after 52 or 53 weeks of rugby, unfortunately it just fell apart and New Zealand were just a class act in that third Test."
It has been suggested that the Irish team are past their best but Bowe reckons it is just a matter of striking the right balance.
"People look at the season and think it was a disaster but we lost the first Six Nations game to Wales and had that gone differently, who knows what we might have done,” added Bowe.
“Come the New Zealand tour, they showed us exactly how far we have to go to get back up to that level again and, unfortunately, we looked a bit off it.
"But I definitely don’t think we’re in crisis. Three Tests in New Zealand is always going to be difficult with the depth they have and the timing of it.
“We’re far from a crisis, you just have to see how the provinces are doing, but from an Irish point of view we have to look to see how we take it up again."
Bowe is nearing a return to fitness after he was forced to undergo surgery when a haematoma pushed into his kidney.
He has returned to Ulster following a four years with the Ospreys and is eager to help his home province continue their recent success.
"I’ve still got the scars as they went through my abdominal wall so it’s kind of sore but hopefully I’ll be doing most of the stuff with the team soon. It will be tough to emulate last year but that’s where Ulster want to be, Leinster are doing it at the minute, we want to close that gap.
"I want to come in and use my experience and be a fresh voice to help us, and also in the league too, we want to push on from where we were."