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Joe Schmidt: Quarter-final loss is proving a real bitter pill to swallow

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt was in no mood for talk of gallant losers at the Millennium Stadium as he assessed yet another quarter-final exit for Ireland at a World Cup.

The head coach admitted that Argentina had been the better team during their 43-20 win, but lamented his side's dreadful start and inability to win collisions, while he believes the loss of an experienced core of players cost them dear.

Having gone 20-3 down in the opening 21 minutes, Ireland - inspired by the brilliant Luke Fitzgerald - fought back to give Ian Madigan a chance to level at 23-23 in the 58th minute.

His kick sailed just wide and Argentina never looked back, scoring two tries to set up a semi-final against Australia.

It was a devastating way for such a promising campaign to end and Schmidt couldn't hide his disappointment.

"I'm tired," he said. "But there's no way I want to go home. I want to keep working for two more weeks and I'm as gutted as any of those players.

"I'll be working alright, working at review and looking back through things and that's never enjoyable when you've lost your last game and you're out of the World Cup.

"Gallant isn't a semi-final and that's what the lads feel now. In the 58th minute, when we got as close as we did, I just felt if we could have got in front I think it might have given us the confidence to kick on.

"There were a few guys out on their feet, we made a few changes. Some of the guys who came on did well, it's just some of the other guys were starting to fall off a little bit.

"It's real tough. It's tough to take because it is in the back of your mind for so long, I felt we had worked our way through the tournament really well."

Schmidt does not believe there is a chasm between northern and southern hemisphere despite a humbling weekend for the Six Nations teams that leaves the Rugby Championship teams occupying the final four places.

To redress the balance, Schmidt is now targeting the three-Test tour of South Africa next June as a chance to learn how to bridge the gap.

"We're going to have to glue ourselves back together and look at the Six Nations and after that we'll be going to South Africa for three Test matches," he said.

"We're going to have to be as well prepared for that as we possibly can be. Somebody mentioned the divide between North and South rugby, and I've been to South Africa and it's a very tough place to go."

The one injury of note for Ireland was Tommy Bowe, who left the pitch on a stretcher early in the first-half.

Schmidt said he fears the Ulster wing may have suffered a knee ligament injury.

"He's not sure what the injury is," said Schmidt. "It could be a ligament injury in the knee, but that's supposition."

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