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'When you're 17-0 down, you start chasing the game. It's not a good place to be against New Zealand'

James Ryan said the Irish dressing room was bitterly disappointed with their 32-point defeat to New Zealand.

James Ryan pictured during Saturday's quarter-final.
James Ryan pictured during Saturday's quarter-final.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JAMES RYAN SAYS Ireland have been left devastated by the nature of their World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand, admitting that the better team came out on top in Tokyo on Saturday.

Steven Hansen’s back-to-back champions cantered to a 46-14 victory, with first-half tries from Aaron Smith (2) and Beauden Barrett effectively ending the game as a contest by the halfway stage.

“It’s very disappointing. There’s nothing really much being said,” Ryan told reporters when asked to describe the feeling inside the Irish dressing room after their crushing 32-point defeat.

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

“It just wouldn’t have happened without him. The overriding feeling is just that lads are gutted.”

The defeat sees Joe Schmidt’s tenure in charge come to a bitter end after six years at the helm. Facing his home nation, the Kiwi was hoping to become the first head coach to bring Ireland to the promised land of a World Cup semi-final.

tadhg-beirne-james-ryan-and-keith-earls-dejected Ireland suffered their seventh World Cup quarter-final exit on Saturday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

An abject display littered with missed touches and poor running lines saw Ireland fail to make history. Leinster lock Ryan said preparations for this year’s competition had been excellent, but Ireland failed to give a true account of themselves.

“To be honest, since I’ve been involved, it was up there with one of the best preparations we’ve had,” he said.

The first session of the week we were absolutely buzzing. We worked incredibly hard going into the game in terms of off-the-pitch, getting our detail right. I wouldn’t change anything in that regard.

“The game itself, I think you have to put your hand up and say they were the better team definitely. At the same time, we created a lot of space at times with some of our plays and we were one pass away from a score. It went the other way, they got an intercept or a loose ball.”

Despite a stuttering World Cup campaign which saw hosts Japan stun Schmidt’s men in the pool stages, Ireland still took confidence from recent victories over the All Blacks in Soldier Field back in 2016 and in Dublin last year.

the-ireland-team-dejected-in-tokyo-stadium-after-the-game A poor display littered with individual errors saw Schmidt's men come up short. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They were better than they were last November,” Ryan admitted. “You can’t give a team like them scores and then we start chasing the game a bit.

“You’re not in a great place then. It’s my first World Cup. It certainly felt a bit different. We played better last November than we did today. When you’re 17-0 down, you start chasing the game a bit. It’s not a good place to be against New Zealand.”

The 23-year-old said the Ireland squad would still reflect fondly on Schmidt’s tenure in charge, which brought with it three Six Nations titles, a Grand Slam and Triple Crown in 2018, and those two memorable defeats of New Zealand.

Saturday saw Schmidt and Best both bring the curtain down on their Ireland careers, with other international stalwarts potentially set to move on too in the near future.

“If you look back, we hadn’t beaten New Zealand and we’ve done that. We hadn’t won a Grand Slam in a long time and we did that,” Ryan said reflecting on the head coach’s legacy.

“The next stage is winning a knock-out game at a World Cup and I think there’s no reason we can’t if you look at this group.

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“There are some young guys there, so I have full faith we will push on. Obviously it’s a long time now for another World Cup.”

Ireland supporters were in fine voice during Saturday’s quarter-final. A booming rendition of The Fields of Athenry rang out during the All Blacks’ pre-match Haka, and Ryan was keen to thank those travelling fans who made the trip to Japan.

“It’s a shame for people who have travelled over,” he said. “It’s a pretty expensive trip and we’re very thankful for that.

Playing for Ireland means absolutely everything to me, everything to the lads. We’re incredibly proud to be Irish.

“When you looked into the stands today, there were so many green jerseys, the number of Irish people who travelled. I think there are great days to come.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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