World Cup review shows that players were poorly prepared and suffered skills deficit
On the same day that the IRFU's performance director David Nucifora was unsparing in delivering the findings of the review of Ireland's latest World Cup failure, former captain Rory Best offered a withering assessment of Joe Schmidt's final days as head coach.
The review involved Nucifora interviewing coaches and relevant management staff while an independent body was brought in to speak with the players. Four key areas were highlighted in explaining why Ireland were unable to reach their target of a first semi-final appearance.
Failure to evolve the game plan, performance anxiety, poor preparation and a skills deficit were all pinpointed as factors in Schmidt's men crashing out in Japan.
Like Nucifora, Best did not hold back on his criticism of Schmidt's methods with the ex-skipper believing the head coach had become too overpowering around match days.
The Ulsterman felt that players were inundated with information on the day of the quarter-final defeat to New Zealand,
"Everyone was a little bit... too much detail and probably too much tension," Best said.
Nucifora was also of the opinion that tactics may have stagnated under the Kiwi.
"Should we have developed our game further? Potentially, yes, with the benefit of hindsight," Nucifora said.
"We pay our coaches for those decisions, they've been good at those for a long period of time.
"We could have gone down that path, but I want to be clear there's no guarantee it would have produced a better result.
"Should we have armed our players with more tools?
'In hindsight, we should have but that's easy for me to say that sitting here now . . . it potentially could have really turned to custard for us. It's a learning for us in terms of managing the future."
Nucifora is adamant that incoming head coach Andy Farrell won't be scarred by what happened in Japan, despite being a key voice in the previous coaching set-up.
"Why would he be tainted? No, I don't think he's been tainted at all,' said the Australian.
"Like anything, you benefit from experience and, again, it might be harsh and it hurts but the benefit you get from losing, you actually learn more so he's got that benefit and he's now in charge of running the show."
Nucifora admitted that Farrell would not be given a 'free pass' in his first Six Nations next year.
From a player's perspective, Best insisted that his side became too complacent after a stunning 2018, but he pointed the finger at Schmidt for overburdening players with too many instructions.
"The morning of the New Zealand game, whatever happened, the coaches wanted a huddle and to go over some plays," Best said.
"I think there was a little worry at that stage that we hadn't emphasised something enough."