Taulupe Faletau a broken man as Wales exit the World Cup
Taulupe Faletau reflected a sense of collective pain after Wales bowed out of the World Cup following an agonising quarter-final defeat against South Africa at Twickenham.
South Africa captain Fourie du Preez broke Welsh hearts by scoring a try five minutes from time to book the Springboks a semi-final place as they triumphed 23-19.
Wales led by a point, courtesy of scrum-half Gareth Davies' first-half touchdown, three penalties, a drop-goal and conversion from Dan Biggar, but Du Preez struck when he darted clear from a close-range scrum and the twice world champions prevailed.
It was rough justice on Wales, who were World Cup semi-finalists in New Zealand four years ago, after they gave as good as they got for almost all of a memorable last-four clash.
"The immediate feeling is gutting that it has come to an end all of a sudden," Wales number eight Faletau said.
"Everything was going to plan, but it wasn't meant to be. We are devastated - that is the word I would use right now.
"All we can do is wish the Springboks all the best.
"This one is going to hurt me harder than anything I have ever experienced so far in my career.
"Just the work the boys have put in, the effort during the summer and making it out of the group, and to go out in the quarter-finals was always going to hurt. It is going to take a while to get over it.
"We cannot not be proud of making it out of the group, and with the circumstances with injuries.
"But walking around the stadium after the game, it feels like it is going to hurt a bit more than four years ago.
"We have gone out earlier than four years ago. It feels like a missed opportunity. I think we were capable of doing better things than going out in the quarter-finals.
"Even with the injuries, we still expected a lot from ourselves as a group, and going out today is not what we wanted."
After beating South Africa in Cardiff 11 months ago, Wales did not lack belief, yet the Springboks continued their impressive recovery from losing against Japan just four weeks ago by posting a fourth successive win in the tournament.
Wales dominated for long periods, and it looked as though they might stay alive despite a crippling injury list that saw them lose six of their original World Cup squad, but they were undone by Du Preez's try, plus five penalties and a drop-goal from Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard.
Several Wales players were strewn across the pitch at the final whistle, emotionally and physically spent, yet they will return home on Sunday with heads held high, knowing they could not have given any more.
Wales prop Gethin Jenkins added: "We are disappointed. All our work came down to the last five minutes, but we couldn't get over the line.
"I thought we performed very well. We matched them physically.
"We are a quality team. We have got some very good young players coming through, and we have built that spirit.
"The signs are only good for the future. There is a good core of 25-30 year-olds who will keep pushing Wales on.
"We have been tested quite hard with the amount of injuries we've had, but we are not looking at that as an excuse.
"All that work, and now we are out of the competition. That's the disappointing thing about it."