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Rugby New Zealand 46 Ireland 14
This was supposed to be the best-coached, best-prepared Ireland team in World Cup history but they leave Japan in humiliation after an abject, error-strewn performance handed the All Blacks a comfortable win in Tokyo.
The Joe Schmidt era was built on a number of fundamentals, with accuracy and discipline high on the list. It is now over after a night littered by mistakes and penalties.
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They have enjoyed great success under the departing head coach, but when it mattered most they gave a performance that will haunt them for the rest of their days.
No Irish coach has ever had a better set of circumstances coming into a Rugby World Cup, the roadblocks to success had been removed from above and he and the players had achieved every one of their targets in the four years since injury ruined their campaign in Cardiff.
But they fell off a cliff in 2019, apparently burdened by the pressure of being counted among the best teams in the world and unable to work the magic they had produced so often in the previous season.
New Zealand were excellent; they expected a challenge from a team who had beaten them twice in three meetings but what they got was a procession into a semi-final date with England.
Once again, Ireland and their fans will watch the business end of rugby’s show-piece event from their couches back home if they can bear it.
The inquest will begin immediately, the nature of this display will put huge pressure on Andy Farrell who is being promoted from within and now has huge issues to fix to avoid the same old story being repeated in France in four years’ time.
International Rugby Newsletter
The All Blacks were always going to come out of the traps with a ferocity and Ireland, like so often this year, struggled to get to the pitch.
CJ Stander was held up in contact after a predictable carry, while Jacob Stockdale handed Richie Mo’unga a chance to kick his side ahead with a deliberate knock on and the All Black out-half made no mistake.
Ireland’s midfield was disrupted when Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw clashed heads and both were forced off at different stages of the half.
And the men in gre
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