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Ireland just had no answers on the day, admits Chris Henry

By Cian Tracey

The warning signs had been there for all to see but ultimately Ireland were powerless to stop a brilliant Argentinian team.

Jonathan Sexton's late withdrawal on Saturday drew an uncomfortable yet familiar air of inevitability at this stage of a World Cup and the out-half's absence, the latest in a lengthy line, was a step too far.

It's impossible to quantify the amount of leadership that was lost with Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony in the stands and those that stepped in did not have the same impact.

One by one the deflated Irish players trundled through the mixed zone. They weren't looking for excuses. To a man, they understood that they had underperformed in the biggest game of their careers.

Jamie Heaslip was immense, so too Luke Fitzgerald, but picking scraps of positivity out of yet another knockout failure is a futile exercise right now.

Afterwards, Joe Schmidt repeatedly pointed to the "inexperience" within the squad but there is no doubting the fact that regardless of what XV took to the pitch, a start like that will be punished at any level.

Dejected Ulsterman Chris Henry said: "It just felt that every time we got the ball, we were chopped.

"They were flying off the line and I don't think we've come across a team that gets off the line like that and chops people so hard.

"Chatting to a few of the lads afterwards, we found it really difficult to get over the gainline which is something we're usually very good at - building phases.

"You don't want to look for excuses but missing big personalities for a team is one thing and maybe another time, there'd a be a bit more luck.

"They stopped us dead. That makes the ruck a lot harder. When we scored our tries and we were coming back into it, it was because we were able to generate fast quick ball at the ruck.

"Ultimately their wide game killed us. We weren't spaced well in defence."

For a team that prides itself on its defence, it was a nightmare afternoon. Time and time again, Irish players fell off tackles.

Lessons must be learned from yesterday's drubbing and on the face of it, it would seem that Ireland have a lot to learn.

Cian Healy admitted: "We messed up with our defence, we gave them more space outside than we should have - they executed everything they went for."

In the build-up to the tournament, Schmidt had spoken about the need to peak at the right team but he will know they produced their best a week too early.

As the camera at the Millennium Stadium regularly panned to O'Connell, O'Mahony and the suspended Sean O'Brien, it was a cruel reminder.

Healy added: "That didn't mean anything because the lads that were there stood up and did what they needed to do, they hit tackles hard and worked very hard.

"It's devastating not to have the lads, but a team that's adaptable can work through and it wasn't a good performance."

Belfast Telegraph


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