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Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland ‘haven’t been where we’ve wanted to be all year’, admits Schmidt

Joe Schmidt admitted Ireland had “been a little bit flat” throughout 2019 after their Rugby World Cup hopes were emphatically ended by ruthless New Zealand on Saturday.

The All Blacks were at their clinical best in a one-sided quarter-final in Tokyo, scoring seven tries to ease to a 46-14 triumph and set up a last-four clash with England next weekend.

Ireland were architects of their own downfall, though, particularly during a first half when they made a number of errors while allowing their opponents to open up a 22-0 lead by the interval.

After celebrating Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations in 2018, as well as a first win over New Zealand on home soil, Ireland have failed to hit the same heights this year, with their World Cup exit a disappointing end to Schmidt’s reign.

“It wasn’t just the 22 points [in the first half], it was all the ball we gave them,” Schmidt said in his post-match interview.

“I think we missed touch with penalties for us to get good field position three times, and that just meant we were chasing our tail. They had so much ball in our half, in our 22, that it was very, very tough going.

“We had a few chances in that first half, I think one of the tries – the third one the All Blacks scored –  we had a really good gap on the inside and just didn’t quite play, didn’t quite have the feel.

“We have been a little bit flat all season, which is disappointing. We were great last year and just maybe come off the top of that and haven’t been where we’ve wanted to be all year.”

As well as their head coach, Ireland also said their farewells to skipper Rory Best, who suffered a heavy defeat in his final international outing.

The hooker thanked the departing Schmidt for taking his game to a new level during an emotional interview before going on a lap of honour with his children after concluding media duties.

“The crowd have been fantastic, as has the support I have received from home, from the fans, whether we’re at home or away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and, in particular, Joe,” Best said.

“He brought Irish rugby and probably my game in particular to a new level. A lot of credit must go to him.”

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