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Ireland's special group can bounce back from New Zealand smashing, insists van der Flier

Josh Van der Flier
Josh Van der Flier
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

How do you explain the inexplicable?

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That was the task left to Josh after Ireland again tripped over a hurdle that at this stage is all too familiar.

The All Blacks were fantastic on Saturday in Tokyo. Ireland's problem was they did nothing to make sure they had to be, the contrast in quality during the lopsided 46-14 quarter-final striking to behold.

Ulster's Iain Henderson brought up the 60-0 in 2012 during the week as an example of how far Ireland have come in the intervening years.

There was a time on Saturday when history looked like it might repeat itself. You didn't have to look far for evidence of why Ireland's World Cup is over, the mystery is just why they were so poor.

After all the highs enjoyed between that haunting defeat to Argentina at this stage four years ago and setting off for Japan, once again they fluffed their lines, starting terribly and never improving.

It was off from virtually the first whistle. A cross-kick on the run is no easy feat but off Ireland's first scrum a planned move looked to have created space outside for Keith Earls only for Sexton's hack to nestle in the arms of George Bridge.

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On and on it went. Balls lost in contact, players over running their lines and, perhaps most damningly of all, three squandered opportunities from missing touch off penalties.

Last year into 2019 has been their very own Wile E Coyote impression, running full-speed towards this World Cup only to get close and realise the ground beneath them has vanished.

A serious challenger to also-ran in the space of 11 months.

"I suppose there always is," said van der Flier of regrets, having been handed the unwanted task of media duties. "I don't know, really, what you can say to that, I don't know.

"We just have to learn from things but it's tough to have to wait four years to see that again.

"Hopefully this group will be able to take learnings from it, get a bit of experience from it, and then bounce on.

"I came in just after the end of the last World Cup so it's been a long time waiting for this and it's disappointing to go out like that with a disappointing performance.

"Obviously I thought we could do better than that but you can't give New Zealand those kind of access points or make those mistakes, they'll just break you down."

With Joe Schmidt and Rory Best calling it quits, there'll be calls to break down this team and start afresh, a new coach and captain building towards the next tournament in France with further new faces around them. For Van der Flier's part, he hopes that's not the case.

He added: "I mean if you look back to the last four years that I've been involved in the Irish set-up, the amount of history we've made and the incredible moments that we've had, there's quite an experienced group now.

"Losing Rory is massive, he's been an incredible leader and I can't speak highly enough of him.

"But I think it's a special group and it would be a shame if we don't push on now.

"That would be the plan but it's tough now to look past today."

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