Jamie Joseph showed how much it hurt as Japan's journey at the Rugby World Cup ended with defeat at the merciless hands of South Africa.

An absorbing tussle at Tokyo Stadium was only one-sided in the closing minutes as South Africa pulled away to win 26-3 and set up a semi-final against Wales next Sunday.

After winning all four of their group games, and having beaten South Africa against all odds at the last World Cup, there were growing hopes in Japan that the tournament hosts could spring another surprise.

It was not to be though, with South Africa's resolute defence repelling the threat of Japan's scintillating backs.

Coach Joseph said: "At the end of the day I'm so proud of my team.

"[They showed] the courage, the tenacity, certainly the determination. I really have to take my hat off to the team.

"And I have to thank the fans - we wouldn't be here if we didn't have the support of the whole country. It's been marvellous."

Joseph appeared to start welling up as his post-match television interview continued, adding: "We're really proud of what we've achieved at the World Cup. We're going to enjoy that a little bit later on.

"I'm disappointed for the players because they give so much to the group and they gave so much to the country in this World Cup."

With his voice faltering, Joseph, who succeeded Eddie Jones after the last World Cup, told the tournament interviewer: "It's been a little bit disappointing, mate."

Captain Michael Leitch signed off his post-match interview with the comment: "Japan's only going to get stronger."

That remains to be seen, but recent reports that Joseph could stay on as coach appear to offer promise.

Leitch accepted the better side won the day, as the Brave Blossoms bowed out.

"Test match rugby is all about creating opportunities and taking your moments," Leitch said.

"I think we had a few opportunities to capitalise on and unfortunately South Africa kept us out, and with their powerful set-piece they had us going backwards.

"Congratulations to the South Africa team - they played their A game and they played it very well.

"I'm extremely proud of what this team's done - Jamie has done an excellent job. And the fans, the country ... I think we've done them proud."

Abandoned, crumbling stadiums and empty, cracked swimming pools. Plummeting participation and dwindling interest. Platitudes and empty gestures.

The reality of sporting legacy is it rarely delivers. A capricious concept dressed up as big-hearted altruism, often propagated by politicians fishing for likes; the cornerstone of bid documents, legacy can look great on PowerPoint but has little influence at pitch level.

Any nation can birth a sporting jamboree. The woozy thrill of conception is followed by a deliciously pregnant wait and then a rush of endorphins on arrival. Postpartum reality is rather more complicated.

Material legacy is often found in infrastructure – the road and rail and housing improvements that any responsible government should be carrying out, global sporting spectacle or not.

The real sporting legacies are bound up in memories created on the field, which is why Japan's Rugby World Cup will live long, despite Sunday's 26-3 quarter-final loss to South Africa; which is why the Springboks' 1995 home triumph - Nelson Mandela their 16th man - so resonated.

Even if the Land of the Rising Sun will not see its own heroes crowned as World Cup champions in Yokohama next month, their brand of attacking, running rugby has lit up the tournament.

By reaching the knockout stage for the first time, Japan piqued interest of millions who never previously gave rugby a second glance. Perhaps the Brave Blossoms themselves have peaked, after the huge investment it has taken to reach this point, to forge a team capable of taking on - and beating - some of the world's best. To guarantee Japan - a team who lost 145-17 to New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup - would not only avoid humiliation but become everyone's favourite second team.

Japan were named as hosts a full decade ago, and in tandem with world rugby chiefs signed up to an Impact Beyond 2019 legacy project, designed to grow rugby throughout Asia. The message seems to be that, despite Japan hosting a whole blimming bells-and-whistles World Cup, the sport still needs to be force-fed into the culture long after the tournament ends.

Investment in Japan's team has been spectacularly well-judged, with previous coaches John Kirwan and Eddie Jones building the platform for Jamie Joseph's current squad to dazzle a domestic and worldwide audience over the past month.

Over 50 million people in Japan reportedly watched the crucial pool win over Scotland. That is almost half the nation. Even more will surely have tuned in for the Springboks clash, viewers who will dictate the long-term positioning of rugby within Japanese sport.

Baseball is number one, with sumo, football, tennis, wrestling, golf, basketball and a host more traditionally ahead of rugby.

Next year the passion of the Japanese people will shift to Olympic sport, when Tokyo stages the 2020 Games.

They are spoiled for choice. We are all spoiled for choice.

Rugby has made a breakthrough, Japan gave the world a team to adore in the Blossoms, but not every great show needs an after-party. Despite a rash of giddy think pieces - meta - Japan really aren't on track to rival the All Blacks.

Perhaps they will flower again in four years' time; perhaps the screaming, roaring fans that packed out Tokyo Stadium on Sunday will have more reasons to celebrate in France.

But after this success was created with precision tooling, enormous wads of yen, and awash with a strong flavouring of imported delicacies, now is surely the time for Japanese rugby to be left to evolve naturally.

Perhaps this isn't the start of something big. Perhaps it's the end of something big. The miracle of Brighton. Six World Cup victories in a row. Sassy wing twins Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima.

Sayonara for now, Japan. You played your part supremely well.

Rassie Erasmus felt the scoreline in South Africa's Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Japan was not a true reflection of how the game played out.

The Springboks progressed to a last-four meeting with Wales by vanquishing the demons of their shock loss to the Brave Blossoms in the 2015 World Cup with a 26-3 triumph in Tokyo on Sunday.

Makazole Mapimpi, who scored a hat-trick in a 41-7 win over Jamie Joseph's side in a warm-up match in September, put the Rugby Championship winners ahead after four minutes but Japan dominated the possession and territory in the rest of the opening period.

However, the hosts were only able to register three points from the boot of Yu Tamura while Tendai Mtawarira was in the sin bin for a tip tackle on Keita Inagaki and went into the break 5-3 down.

The Springboks showed greater discipline and control in the second period, with Handre Pollard nudging them clear via a trio of penalties before Faf de Klerk and Mapimpi crossed in the final 14 minutes to put them out of sight.

Erasmus said: "In both games we played [against Japan] the score doesn't reflect how tough it was. At half-time it was 5-3 and then we got one or two runaway tries.

"This was a five- or six-point game – the margin we got at the end wasn't a true reflection.

"They were very determined. Their substitutions made a hell of a difference. This Japanese team is well coached, they're fit, they're tough, they're tight and they've got great support, so at the end of the day we must be satisfied with the win."

The Springboks were guilty of excessive handling errors in promising areas in the opening period but Erasmus praised Japan's defence as he set his sights on the Webb Ellis Cup.

"It was frustrating, we had two or three tries in the first half that because of knock-ons we didn't score, which could've taken it away from them," added the South Africa boss.

"But then again the way they defend and the way they scramble, it just shows the character of their team.

"We want to try to go all the way. Now we've got Wales. They are ranked higher than us and they got a win against France this weekend. We will start tomorrow on them, but we'll enjoy tonight and know the next two weeks will be tough."

Captain Siya Kolisi was impressed by the fight Japan put up and was proud of his team for keeping things close in a tough first half for South Africa.

"We knew what Michael Leitch and his boys were going to bring today. They said all week they were coming for us in our set-piece and it took a lot out of us to keep on fighting," said Kolisi.

"But credit to my boys, we fought, we ground it out. You really should be proud of your team, they gave it everything out there.

"We knew how fast they can play the game and they play a style that's fearless and that's exactly what they said they'd do this week and they didn't shy away from it today.

"We knew we had to get up, especially when we were one man down - I'm really glad the boys didn't concede a lot of points there. That's what we pride ourselves on, hard-working defence."

South Africa gained vengeance for their shock loss to Japan in 2015 by comfortably defeating the Brave Blossoms 26-3 in an enthralling Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Tokyo.

Japan pulled off a stunning 34-32 triumph over the Springboks in the previous tournament but were unable to repeat the trick in their first appearance in the last eight as their dream run on home soil ended.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said in the build-up that a 41-7 victory over Jamie Joseph's side in September provided a measure of revenge, though they secured the ultimate tonic to book a semi-final against Wales.

Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick in the warm-up meeting and this time touched down either side of Faf de Klerk's try as Japan were punished for failing to make the most of an impressive first-half display.

After the high of reaching the quarter-finals, Japan were brought down to earth inside four minutes when De Klerk fed Mapimpi off the scrum and the wing breezed through the challenge of Yu Tamura to race in at the left corner.

The Springboks had Tendai Mtawarira sent to the sin bin on his 100th Test start for a tip tackle on Keita Inagaki, yet a penalty won against the feed at the scrum that Tamura slotted between the posts was all Japan had to show for their numerical advantage.

Japan continued to dominate the possession and territory when South Africa were restored to their full complement, though they were unable to capitalise and move ahead before the break.

Handre Pollard atoned for failing to convert Mapimpi's try by splitting the posts with a trio of penalties within 16 minutes of the restart, helping the Springboks edge clear.

Rassie Erasmus' men were far more disciplined in the second half and moved well out of sight when De Klerk crossed following an unstoppable rolling maul.

Mapimpi put the result beyond all doubt with 10 minutes remaining when he fended off Kotaro Matsushima for a second try to keep the Rugby Championship winners in the hunt for another trophy.

 

Japan's journey ends

Victories over Ireland and Scotland - the latter in an incredibly emotional shoot-out for progression in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis - provided the hosts with unforgettable moments they will hope help continue the development of rugby union in Japan. While they were unable to replicate the miracle of Brighton from four years ago, they can be incredibly proud of their displays in 2019.

All-action De Klerk

Sale Sharks scrum-half De Klerk dictated the play and provided a calming presence for South Africa in a difficult first period littered with handling errors. He made some important tackles to keep the Brave Blossoms at bay and was rewarded with a deserved try in the 66th minute.

Warren Gatland conceded the better team lost after Wales came from behind to see off France in the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

Wales recovered from 12-0 and 19-10 down to defeat a 14-man France, who saw Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off for swinging an elbow into the head of Aaron Wainwright in the 49th minute.

Gatland's men had been second best up until that point, with France wasting opportunities to take a more commanding lead in the first half.

Vahaamahina's dismissal proved a turning point but Wales had to wait until the 74th minute for the winning try, which came in contentious fashion as Ross Moriarty went over after Charles Ollivon had the ball stripped.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live afterwards, Gatland said: "I think the better team lost. The thing about our boys is they don't give up, they keep trying until the end.

"We kept working away. France came out of the blocks well. At half-time we just said we've got to score next, we did that and obviously the red card was the turning point. It was pretty special."

Back in February after Wales came back from 16-0 down to claim an away win over France in the Six Nations, Gatland declared that his side had "forgotten how to lose".

Asked in his post-match media conference if their turnaround was a prime example of that, Gatland replied: "I think it was. The message at half time was that France had started well.

"You have to take your hat off to them. I thought they were excellent and very unlucky. They've definitely improved.

"The red card was significant but that sometimes galvanises teams.

"We didn't play well but we can be excited about looking forward to the semi-final."

Number eight Josh Navidi's participation in the semi-final, where they will face either Japan or South Africa, is in doubt due to a hamstring injury.

"Josh Navidi has done a hamstring," Gatland added. "We don't know how serious it is yet."

Jacques Brunel suspects Wales' match-winning try in their World Cup quarter-final win over France should not have been awarded.

Wales came from behind to beat 14-man France in Oita on Sunday, their cause aided significantly by a 49th-minute red card shown to Sebastien Vahaamahina, who swung his elbow into the head of Aaron Wainwright.

Warren Gatland's men struggled to take full advantage of the dismissal, but found the winning try in the 74th minute as Ross Moriarty went over after Tomos Williams stole the ball from Charles Ollivon close to the France line.

The TMO awarded the try despite the suggestion the ball went forward after it was taken away from Ollivon, a decision Brunel was far from happy with.

"The red card, I don't contest it. When you see the images, it’s very clear. He had a reflex," Brunel told a media conference.

"Of course he feels bad, he's not happy with what he's done.

"We cannot deny it. I don't have any problem with the decision. There are other decisions I don't agree with.

"I would like to see the last try again because I think there is a player who grabbed the ball and then it went forward.

"So I'd like to see that decision again and I'm a little disappointed."

Asked about his team's response to the red card, Brunel added: "We weren't really disorganised but we should have reacted differently.

"We didn't show enough character because we had opportunities to stretch the lead.

"So that's why I'm saying the outcome of the match is difficult to accept."

 

For the majority of Sunday's World Cup quarter-final with Wales, France were in control thanks to a performance that belied the reports of discord in the camp.

Arguably the most unpredictable side in world rugby, Les Bleus showed the best side of themselves for so long in a contest few expected them to have the better of, against a Wales team briefly ranked number one in the world this year.

France were aggressive, fluent with ball in hand and produced the kind of aesthetically pleasing play that is synonymous with their country's finest in full flight.

As Virimi Vakatawa stepped past Josh Navidi and found Romain Ntamack, who then fed Antoine Dupont to set up Charles Ollivon to cruise under the posts and put France 12-0 up, even the most ardent of Wales fan will have feared a vintage display from the side that controversially denied them in the semi-finals in 2011.

Even after an error allowed Adam Wainwright to get Wales on the board, France remained the superior outfit and, despite a pair of missed kicks from Ntamack, it would have been tough to find too many tipping Warren Gatland's men to make a comeback akin to the one they produced at the Stade de France in the Six Nations this year.

However, France are as well known for their meltdowns as they are for their free-flowing style, and it was a moment of madness nine minutes into the second half that ultimately proved crucial in condemning them to a heart-breaking 20-19 defeat.

Guilhem Guirado was recalled to the starting XV for France despite rumours of a bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel, and the atmosphere in the dressing room is unlikely to have been a pleasant one after Sebastien Vahaamahina made a telling contribution to his own side's downfall.

It is unclear whether we will ever be able to understand the method behind the back-row's decision to launch a swinging elbow into the side of Wainwright's head, and his dismissal will go down in World Cup infamy as it proved the turning point in a French failure.

To their credit, Brunel's men held up well despite their man disadvantage and still led 19-13 going into the final six minutes.

Yet Tomos Williams ripped the ball from Ollivon's grasp yards out from the France line and it was collected by Justin Tipuric before Ross Moriarty, whose yellow card preceded the Vakatawa try, turned from villain to hero by scoring the winning try.

France may feel aggrieved, with the try awarded by the TMO despite the suggestion the ball went forward after being stolen from Ollivon, while many in the Wales camp will feel luck has evened out after Sam Warburton's contentious red card in the semi eight years ago.

Brunel's men only have themselves to blame, though. While the crucial try was questionable, Wales' turnaround was aided by handling errors, missed kicks and an inexplicable moment of gross indiscipline.

Consistent also-ran in the Six Nations, France have lurched from one disappointment to the next since their agonising defeat to New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final.

Gatland conceded the best team lost in Oita, but succinctly summed up the continued issue for a side that now infuriate more than they inspire.

"I thought France definitely improved since the Six Nations," said Gatland. "Losing becomes a habit, but so does winning and we are in that habit at the moment."

France are firmly in the losing habit and, with the next World Cup to be held on home soil, they have four years to change that by channelling the fire that can make them such an attractive side to watch into consistency, rather than self-inflicted collapses.

Ross Moriarty went from villain to hero for Wales as Warren Gatland's team beat 14-man France 20-19 to reach the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

His 74th-minute try shattered the hopes of a France side who had looked like clinging on for victory after Sebastien Vahaamahina saw red for a disgraceful elbow into the face of Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright.

France scored a pair of tries inside the opening eight minutes and led 19-10 at half-time, with replacement Moriarty having spent a costly 10 minutes in the sin bin.

But Vahaamahina's moment of recklessness proved pivotal, with Wales eventually making their extra man count in a nail-biter - just as France did when beating the Red Dragons 9-8 in the 2011 semi-final at Eden Park.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has stepped down following the Wallabies' Rugby World Cup exit in Japan.

Cheika confirmed he will not seek re-appointment after Australia were routed 40-16 by England in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

The 52-year-old, who guided the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup final as he was named World Rugby Coach of the Year, bristled at questions over his future in the immediate aftermath of Australia's elimination.

However, former Waratahs boss Cheika quit on Sunday – ending his five-year stint in charge of Australia.

"It is no secret I have no relationship with the CEO [Raelene Castle] and not much with the chairman [Cameron Clyne]," Cheika was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Cheika replaced Ewen McKenzie in 2014 and he made an immediate impact as the Wallabies reached the 2015 World Cup final – beaten by New Zealand.

That run to the decider saw Cheika become the first Australia coach to claim World Rugby's top coaching award since Rod Macqueen in 2001.

But the Wallabies' performances slowly regressed and pressure mounted on heading into this year's World Cup.

In a statement released by Rugby Australia, Cheika said: "I got asked the question in the press conference about what's going to happen going forward and at the time I wasn't keen to answer, but I always knew the answer in my head.

"I just wanted to speak to my wife and tell a few people up there [on the Rugby Australia board] about it.

"I put my chips in earlier in the year - I told people no win, no play.

"So, I'm the type of man who always goes to back what he says and I knew from the final whistle, but I just wanted to give it that little bit time to cool down, talk to my people and then make it clear."

New Zealander Dave Rennie – who is in charge of Glasgow Warriors having previously led the Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles – is the favourite to replace Cheika.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika insisted he would rather win playing the Australia way or no way after the country's Rugby World Cup elimination.

Australia crashed out of the World Cup quarter-finals following a 40-16 drubbing at the hands of rivals England in Oita on Saturday.

Despite a bright start, the Wallabies were no match for Eddie Jones' England as Cheika's tactics were brought into question in the aftermath.

Australia adopted a ball-in-hand approach during the tournament in Japan and Cheika was in a defiant mood amid doubts over his future.

"Listen, that's the way we play footy, I'm not going to go to a kick-and-defend game. Call me naive but that's not what I'm going to do," Cheika said.

"I'd rather win it our way or no way. That's the way Aussies want us to play."

Cheika, who led Australia to the 2015 World Cup final, added: "We scored some good tries, we were fit and as tends to happen to us sometimes, over the last few years and sometimes we encounter intercepts.

"Dropped ball, if I look back [at] the Fiji game, dropped ball … length of the field. The Wales game, intercepts. Intercepts again [here]. 

"That's definitely an issue we have to work on, how to close that part of the game down. Because if you put all those intercepts together and it went close to costing us one game, if not two. 

"I am really happy with the way the team played. Obviously we could have played better, no doubt. But just mastering those types of moments is the next step for the team, going forward for the next few years."

Bordeaux-Begles could lose ground on Top 14 leaders Lyon after slipping to their second defeat in three matches at Brive.

Mahamadou Diaby's ninth-minute dismissal proved decisive as Christophe Urios' Bordeaux were beaten 30-9, the extra man proving telling for the hosts in the final 15 minutes.

Brive's lead was only 16-9 going into the final quarter of an hour but Julien Blanc and Matthieu Voisin went over to make the points safe on Saturday.

Lyon have a four-point lead over Bordeaux and can stretch that with a win over Clermont Auvergne on Sunday.

Bayonne could have closed the gap on the top two but instead fell to a 20-9 loss at the hands of Toulon.

Defending champions Toulouse's poor start to the season continued at Montpellier – who ran out 33-22 winners thanks to a double from Gabriel Ngandebe and 15 points from the boot of Anthony Bouthier.

Elsewhere, Pau beat Castres 37-24 while struggling Paris clubs Racing 92 and Stade Francais remain in the bottom two after defeats to La Rochelle and Agen respectively.

James Grayson's late penalty snatched a 27-25 win for Northampton Saints at champions Saracens as Exeter Chiefs started the Premiership season with a narrow win over Harlequins.

Saints led 21-16 at half-time following tries from David Ribbans, Rory Hutchinson and Henry Taylor.

The European Champions Cup holders looked set to edge it when Ben Spencer slotted over his sixth penalty of the match with four minutes remaining, but there was a final twist to the tale.

Grayson stepped up for a shot at goal in the closing stages and made no mistake, sealing Northampton's first away win over Saracens in three years.

Exeter, runners-up last season, got their league campaign under way with a 22-19 success over Quins at Sandy Park.

Jonny Hill scored the Chiefs' only try in the first half and Joe Simmonds booted 17 points as Gabriel Ibitoye's double proved to be in vain.

Worcester Warriors were 24-16 winners over Leicester Tigers, while Gloucester came out on top 18-16 at Sale Sharks.

Head coach Steve Hansen suggested New Zealand's Rugby World Cup pedigree was key as they thrashed Ireland 46-14 to reach the semi-finals in Japan.

The All Blacks came into Saturday's contest having lost two of their previous three fixtures against Ireland, including a 16-9 defeat in Dublin when the sides last met in November 2018.

However, the two-time defending world champions were emphatic winners on this occasion, running in seven tries to underline their status as tournament favourites ahead of a last-four meeting with England.

Ireland have never made it past the quarter-finals of a World Cup, which proved significant in Hansen's eyes.

"Experience is a funny thing, isn't it? What is it that you've experienced? That's the key," he said.

"Our young guys, a lot of them have been involved in championship-winning teams in Super Rugby, in big moments, and that's why you can select them with confidence. And they've played well in Test matches that we've selected them in.

"It was interesting, everyone was talking about how many [experienced players] Ireland had. Half of our 23 had played in a knockout tournament and won it, and that was the difference wasn't it?

"I'm not being disrespectful here in saying this, but Ireland's experience was not to win and we had 11 guys that actually had experience of winning.

"That's why you've got to be careful when you start talking about experience because sometimes just because you've played for a long time, you might have learned a lot of things that you don't want to learn or you may have learned nothing along the way.

"I was a bit like that when I played - I didn't learn much."

Asked if New Zealand had performed better with "a monkey on their back", Hansen replied: "I don't know if you can call it a monkey but we got reminded and reminded and reminded and reminded that we had lost to Ireland.

"And All Black teams don't need to be reminded that they've lost two games to Ireland, out of 38 [actually 32]. They know that and they don't forget it.

"We remember our losses way more than we remember the wins. So it's banked, it's not something that you go and talk about, just everyone knows it."

Steve Hansen congratulated Joe Schmidt and Rory Best for their achievements in the international game after New Zealand put an end to Ireland's Rugby World Cup hopes on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries in a 46-14 triumph as they cruised through to a semi-final meeting with England, keeping alive their bid to lift the trophy for a third successive tournament.

Defeat for Ireland not only ends their campaign in Japan but also head coach Schmidt's six-year reign, as well as the playing career of captain Best.

New Zealand boss Hansen praised his opposite number's achievements during his time in charge of Ireland; Schmidt won the Six Nations three times, including a Grand Slam campaign in 2018.

Before fielding a question in his post-match news conference, Hansen spoke glowingly about his compatriot, and hooker Best, who announced in April he would be retiring after the World Cup.

"Firstly, before we talk too much about the game, I'd really like to take the opportunity on behalf of myself and the All Blacks to congratulate two men on the opposition - Rory Best and Joe Schmidt," Hansen said.

"Both had magnificent careers in their respective roles for Ireland.

"They've made a difference in their time and, it doesn't matter what team you play for, if you can make a difference while you're there then you've done your job.

"So both of those guys, I understand, are finishing up and we'd like to acknowledge them publicly, what a wonderful job they've done."

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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