'Bitterly disappointed' Irish team praise overwhelming support as they arrive home
Battered and bruised, the "disappointed" Irish team have arrived home from the Rugby World Cup.
The squad touched down in Dublin shortly before 4.30pm, and posed for endless selfies with the adoring throng of fans who had turned up at the airport to give them a heroes welcome home.
Coach Joe Schmidt took time to thank the 16th player on the field- the fans- for their unrelenting support during their time in the tournament.
"It's been overwhelming. I think the players were blown away, particularly during the French match with the volume of support that was there," he said.
"Even travelling to and from venues, it was unbelievable. So I suppose on behalf of the squad, thanks for all the support we have had.
"We are incredibly disappointed, but at the same time we are really appreciative of that volume of support we have had."
It is understood that the players, who have now been released back to their clubs, will have a few weeks off before returning to the pitch.
"I know we will have a massive challenge in front of us," the coach said, speaking about the months ahead.
He is now predicting a "massive" Six Nations for the Irish squad.
"I think all the home nations teams are disappointed that there is no one in those semi-finals and we saw the value of Scotland's performance. Wales almost toppled South Africa.
"England will be hurting after going out in the pool stages and we struggled past Italy and the French will be wanting to get back at us.
"So the Six Nations is going to be massive. And I suppose that's all you can do, you can only turn your eye to the future and try to build into something that will still be a little bit of history for us to go back to back to back in Six Nations which would be a massive challenge."