Joe Schmidt has admitted that Ireland were “consumed” by righting the wrongs of their past after once again failing to reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
Ireland were swept aside by reigning world champions New Zealand in their quarter-final showdown, losing 46-14 in Tokyo.
Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett all touched down as the All Blacks booked a semi-final meeting with Eddie Jones’ England in Yokohama next weekend.
The result means Ireland, who got themselves on the score sheet through Robbie Henshaw and a penalty try, have now lost all seven of their quarter-finals at the World Cup, with the nation yet to progress to the last four.
Under Schmidt there was hope of finally lifting the historical burden in Japan, but up against a relentless New Zealand side the Irish fell short in devastating fashion.
“We’d love to have gotten the top four,” said Schmidt in his post-match press conference. “That’s the one thing that remains and continues to remain elusive.
“Heartbroken wouldn’t be too far away from how I and the players feel.
“We wanted to make sure this was our target and perhaps got a little consumed by it.”
Schmidt faced suggestions before this World Cup that his legacy as Ireland head coach was dependent upon the delivery of a semi-final birth. But the Kiwi, who is now set to step down from his position, insisted this wasn’t the case.
“We’ve had some good days, I don’t think they should be washed away by two defeats [the other coming against Japan],” he added.
“We just met a team who I think are No 1 in the world for a reason.”
Captain Rory Best, who joins Schmidt in stepping down from international duties with Ireland, said the team was “incredibly disappointed”.
“We’ve got a lot of big guys in our team. It’s not often you get a changing room in complete silence,” he said.
“There were big men in tears.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster of emotion [this tournament].”
He added: “The All Blacks were fantastic. We felt we had prepared well and had a game plan – they just came out of the blocks hard and never let us get off that again.
“They were just really clinical, didn’t let us get on the front foot. This is a momentum game, especially in knockout rugby. The boys will look back at this but you have to give enormous credit to the All Blacks.”