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New Zealand 46
JOE SCHMIDT ENJOYED some wonderful days during his time as Ireland head coach, but his reign came to an end in a sad, sorry way in Tokyo.
Facing his native New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals and after Ireland had spoken up their confidence all week, Schmidt had to watch on as his team were comprehensively embarrassed by the brilliant seven-try All Blacks.
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Steve Hansen’s side deserve huge credit for the sheer quality of their play but Ireland’s quite incredible error count fed into the Kiwis’ strengths in an alarming manner.
Dropped balls, 16 turnovers in total, missed touches, poor running lines, muddy kicking tactics, and more – this was the very worst of Ireland under Schmidt to cap a miserable final year of his time in charge.
Ireland’s abysmal World Cup record continues with a seventh quarter-final defeat, underlining that Irish rugby has a major problem with the biggest tournament in the game. Schmidt’s men simply didn’t turn up for this huge occasion.
Their handling errors repeatedly invited the All Blacks to attack them, which they did with glee, while Ireland simply couldn’t live with the mobility, energy, skill level and physicality that the All Blacks offered.
Beforehand in Tokyo, it had felt like something special was possible as Ireland stepped towards the haka with The Fields of Athenry reverberating around the stadium courtesy of the remarkable numbers of Irish supporters who somehow got their hands on tickets.
But within minutes it was clear that Ireland were not going to provide the challenge that the travelling support had hoped for. Instead, back-to-back champions New Zealand march on emphatically to face England in the semi-finals of this World Cup next weekend.
That looks like being an epic contest but the All Blacks’ quality here – led by the sublime Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick – underlined why they are favourites for this tournament.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Ireland, meanwhile, will fly home from Japan hurting very badly. Four years on from the pain of a harrowing quarter-final defeat to Argentina at the last World Cup in which they were shockingly poor in the first quarter, Schmidt’s side again started disastrously.
Needing to get the early lead for their pressure game to have an effect here, Ireland instead found themselves 17-0 down after the first quarter, the game essentially over.
Schmidt was, in truth, let down by his trusted leaders, as Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw, and Keith Earls led a long list of players who made
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