Just like the 2015 exit at the hands of Argentina, the latest in Ireland’s long run of Rugby World Cup quarter-final failures will leave a sour taste in the mouth for some time.
After they promised so much in 2018, Ireland became a shadow of that side in 2019 which ultimately culminated in a 46-14 thrashing by New Zealand in Tokyo.
For many players in the Ireland squad, this was their big chance to finally create history by becoming the first Ireland men’s senior side to reach the last four. But that wait will go on until France 2023 at least.
The players will be devastated, naturally, but an honest post-mortem needs to take place to truly figure out what went wrong over the last 10 months.
For captain Rory Best, he bows out from the game in incredibly disappointing circumstances and in the post-match press conference, he gave an insight into what the Irish dressing room was like.
“Tired, sore, upset,” Best replied when asked how he was feeling.
“You focus on what has just gone. We have a lot of characters in that dressing room (and it’s) not often you get one that is deadly silent. There are big men in tears and that is what happens when you put heart and soul into something.”
Joe Schmidt, who also leaves Irish rugby in disappointing fashion, spoke about how the players are “human beings” when trying to describe his side’s decline in 2019.
“When you hit a high there is always a little bit of a drop,” Schmidt said.
“We work with human beings. We’d won three out of the last five so that is why it is so devastating. We didn’t produce the performance on the night.
“We weren’t as regenerated as we would have liked to have been. The error count makes it incredibly tough and I don’t have a reason for that but there is always anxiety, guys who overreach and you don’t get the performance you are looking for.”
Schmidt also added that perhaps the prospect of finally getting over the quarter-final weighed heavy on the minds of his players.
“We would love to have got into the top four. That is the one thing that continues to remain elusive. Heartbroken would not be far away from how I feel and how the players feel.
“After the November series we wanted to make sure this was our target and maybe it consumed us too much and we got distracted from the focus.”