Wales captain Michael Owen has hit back at critics who claimed his side were not up for the challenge in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations Championship defeat to Ireland in Dublin.
Wales were beaten 31-5 in a performance former Test fly-half Jonathan Davies described as "inept".
Davies also suggested Gavin Henson, who has taken the defeat hard after coming on as a first-half replacement for the injured Stephen Jones, looked "uninterested".
But Owen was riled by the suggestion Wales lacked passion or pride in their work.
"I don't really want to dignify those comments with an answer," said the Newport Gwent Dragons number eight, who assumed the captaincy from injured full-back Gareth Thomas.
"It is never a question of effort when you are playing for your country. We were giving it everything but some things we got wrong."
Owen insisted Wales had not taken a major step backwards after their victory over Scotland a fortnight ago, despite many of the traits that soured their defeat to England returning in the wind of Lansdowne Road.
Caretaker coach Scott Johnson and Jones, who had been inspirational in the opening 20 minutes before limping off with a dead leg, both explained that Wales had lost their timing in attack.
It was exactly that problem Mike Ruddock bemoaned after Wales opened their championship defence with a 47-13 defeat at Twickenham.
"It is frustrating that our timing was off in attack again because we had got back to good habits against Scotland," said Jones.
"Because of the way we play there is a fine line between things working for us and not. That is the style we play and we have to work hard now over the next fortnight."
Owen has challenged his men to end the RBS 6 Nations Championship on a high at the Millennium Stadium with victories over the tough Italians and the unpredictable French.
"It was not that much of a step back. Against Scotland we got a win and played reasonably well. We are still improving," he said.
"The first 20 minutes was the best rugby we have played in the championship. We have just got to keep it going. We now go back to Cardiff and want to finish on a high."
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.