Ireland set to look for answers after World Cup exit frustration
Published 19/10/2015 | 07:51
Ireland's World Cup inquest will start in earnest on Monday, and revolve around injuries, supposed inexperience and miscalculations.
Hindsight will hand head coach Joe Schmidt the perfect blueprint for global domination, as the Ireland boss comes to terms with his side's comprehensive 43-20 defeat to Argentina.
At the sixth time of asking Ireland again failed to reach the World Cup semi-finals, well beaten by the aggressive, potent and fluent Pumas.
Ireland boss Schmidt claimed his side lacked the experience in key roles required for victory, perhaps inadvertently casting focus on his favourite topic of every squad player "knowing their roles".
"You can't afford to give a good team like that such a head-start," said Schmidt.
"There's a little lack of experience and that was very frustrating.
"It either comes off for us or for them, and we didn't quite get the rub of the green."
Schmidt selected flanker Jordi Murphy to start, owing to the Leinster star having spent the brunt of the last two years on hand within the Ireland set-up.
The former Leinster boss could have pitched Munster's Donnacha Ryan in at lock from the off and moved Iain Henderson into the back row, in a bid to offset the injury loss of Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony.
Keith Earls struggled when shut right down by Argentina's targeted defence, before Luke Fitzgerald excelled in replacing knee injury victim Tommy Bowe.
Schmidt could have picked Ryan and Fitzgerald from the off and Ireland still may have lost the match, but the exacting coach will by nature be hard on himself when reviewing his own World Cup performance.
O'Connell has played his last game in green, the 108-Test veteran's international career at an end.
Prop Mike Ross is intent on pushing his Ireland career forward, despite closing in on his 36th birthday in December.
Ireland's frustrating exit has not forced any immediate retirements then - but with a new four-year cycle come natural shifts.
Les Kiss will depart to Ulster leaving Ireland needing to recruit a new defence coach, while Schmidt needs a new captain.
Ever the able stand-in, Jamie Heaslip will number among the front-runners for the full-time job, but Ireland may look for a more youthful replacement for O'Connell.
Heaslip will turn 32 in December, and even the robust Leinster loose forward will be hard-pressed still to be in Test action at Japan 2019.
O'Mahony will be another among the candidates to assume the captaincy, but there is no onus on Schmidt to make a quick call.