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Ireland 'gutted' to bid emotional Schmidt and Best farewell with World Cup defeat

Scrum coach Greg Feek also bows out after years of service to Irish rugby.

IRELAND MAY HAVE just been torn apart in another World Cup quarter-final defeat, but that wasn’t going to stop their supporters from screaming and shouting their thanks to Rory Best.

The Ireland captain had departed from what proved not to be a contest in the 63rd minute with his team 34-0 down, watching on as the Kiwis added a couple more tries to finish as 46-14 winners.

Post-match, Best walked through a tunnel formed by both teams and was clapped off the pitch as he now retires from professional rugby.

rory-best-with-his-daughter-penny-and-son-ben-after-the-game Rory Best's career ended on a deeply disappointing note. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Irish fans roared their support for the man who led Ireland to a Grand Slam and a pair of wins over the All Blacks in 2016 and 2018.

It was as upsetting a final note with Ireland for head coach Joe Schmidt, who one hopes will take a decent breather from the relentless demands of professional coaching before deciding on his next step. 

There wasn’t much mention of scrum coach Greg Feek post-match but he too departs after investing huge amounts of time and energy into improving Ireland’s front row stocks.

Every Irish player involved will have personal regrets and frustrations after that deeply disappointing defeat to a wonderful All Blacks team, but they were most gutted to have sent Best, Schmidt, and Feek off with a major underperformance.

“It’s sad that we have Joe and Besty leaving us,” said Luke McGrath. “They were emotional in the changing room there, so it’s sad that this is the style they have to go but I just want to say they’ve been incredible for the whole squad, all the work they’ve put in.

“They should be very proud of what they’ve done for Irish rugby. They just said that they were very proud to be a part of this team.

“I think they’ll speak a bit more later on, they were quite emotional as you can imagine, it’s a difficult time for them but they’ve been unbelievable for Irish rugby.”

Second row James Ryan, who will be a key leader as Ireland look to move on from this defeat in 2020, echoed McGrath’s disappointment.

“The lads just thanked Bestie for everything and Joe for his six years,” said Ryan. “I think he’s taken Irish rugby to new levels, some of the wins are going to set standards which are different now than when he took over.

joe-schmidt-with-greg-feek-after-the-game Joe Schmidt and Greg Feek embrace after Ireland's loss. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It just wouldn’t have happened without him. The overriding feeling is just that lads are gutted. We’re gutted for ourselves as well, gutted for Besty. He has been a phenomenal skipper.”

Replacement tighthead Andrew Porter, another player who looks like being crucial in Ireland’s future, paid his own tribute to the departing captain and head coach.

“Rory’s done so much for the country and the team, a leader like that,” said Porter. “I don’t think I can really put into words how much of an influence he is on a lot of the players, myself in particular. It’s tough to see him go like that the way things went today.

“Joe too, he gave me my chance, my first cap, so I owe him a lot too. He’s changed Irish rugby for the better, so both men will be very much missed.”

McGrath insisted that this harrowing night in Tokyo shouldn’t tarnish Best and Schmidt’s legacy, though many will argue the opposite.

“It’s hard to put into words but Besty… it speaks for it itself, all the caps,” said McGrath. “He played 80 minutes against Scotland, he’s 37-years-old, he’s unbelievable, a machine.

“Joe has just brought the level of Irish rugby up. Everyone goes into championships now thinking we have a very good chance of winning – and that’s all down to the work Joe has done over the last six and a half years and we’ll be sad to see him leave.

“Unfortunately, today is the day that they are saying goodbye to us and the performance wasn’t up there but we’ll have a look back and we’ll enjoy the lads’ company tonight and move on from there.”

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Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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