Departing coach Joe Schmidt says that Ireland’s failure to make the All Blacks work for their points was his side’s undoing following their 46-14 quarter-final defeat in Tokyo.
Both Schmidt and captain Rory Best are set to part ways with the side following their World Cup exit, having made invaluable contributions to the Irish cause.
Despite their recent success against New Zealand, Ireland were simply outclassed by a ruthless All Blacks side with Schmidt unable to pinpoint the exact cause for his team’s below-par performance.
‘I don’t have an excuse or a reason for it. You can’t afford to give the All Blacks points,’ said a disappointed Schmidt.
‘It was a bit flat, on the back of having a few niggles. I thought we needed to get off to a good start and if we didn’t we would be a bit vulnerable.’
‘Before the third try we had really good space but we didn’t quite put things together, we spilled that and the All Blacks scored. You have to make them work for everything. In the past we had forced them to do that even when we lost against them.
‘Then we were chasing the game and if you are chasing the game against the All Blacks you are going to give them opportunities, and that is exactly what we did.’
Unable to produce the performance they had hoped for on the night, Ireland failed to advance past the quarter-final stage of a World Cup yet again. This continues the trend of recent years in which the Irish peak between World Cup cycles but underperform on the grand stage.
‘We would love to have got into the top four,’ added a gutted Schmidt.
‘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.
‘We’ve had some incredibly good days and they don’t get washed away by two defeats. I felt we had good reason four years ago where we lost our leadership but we have just met a team who are No 1 in the world for a reason.’
After commending opposition coach Schmidt and Best on their respective achievements for Ireland, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised the efforts of captain Kieran Read and his coaching staff.
‘I’d like to acknowledge the big fella alongside me here [Read],’ said Hansen during the post-game media conference.
‘He’s come back from a back injury, copped a lot of flak from people about his form but as that injury’s got better, so has his play. It’s not just that, he’s led the team really well and I think he’s even gone to a higher level at the World Cup.
‘Our attack has gone to a new level and he [Ian Foster] is coaching the best I’ve seen. Scott McLeod is doing a fantastic job with the defence and my old mate Crono [Mike Cron] is certainly doing a great job with the forwards. We wouldn’t have a team without these four people so I’d like to thank them.’
After keeping the Ireland attack out for most of the game, Hansen also credited his side for their impressive defensive effort in what eventuated to a crushing victory for the All Blacks.
‘It’s massive, isn’t it? Defence is 50% of the game and probably 90% when you take in the psychological value of it,’ continued Hansen.
‘We kept our discipline, and when they carried, we made punishing tackles that forced some errors and then teams start to second-guess a little bit and psychologically you get an edge.’
The All Blacks face England in next week’s semi-final in what promises to be a riveting encounter, particularly after Hansen’s team escaped with a narrow victory at Twickenham last November, in somewhat controversial circumstances. England coach Eddie Jones said that he was excited by the challenge of facing the defending champions, following his side’s earlier victory over Australia.
‘I’m looking forward to playing them too now we’ve earned the right,’ added Hansen. They’ll be a massive challenge but I don’t think tonight’s the night for us to be talking about that.
‘We’ll enjoy our moment, it was a special test match, one that the All Blacks, New Zealanders and the players can be proud of. We won’t think about England until tomorrow. They’re not even on my mind.’
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