Ireland peaked too early, Joe Schmidt admits following crushing loss to All Blacks

Ireland knew they had everything they needed to be competitive at this year's Rugby World Cup and after a strong 2018, they entered this year's tournament as a favourite to dethrone the All Blacks.

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Schmidt said the team had always aimed to peak at the World Cup but couldn’t replicate their recent form. Source: 1 NEWS

But therein lies the problem.

After a stellar 2018 which saw Ireland claim the Six Nations with a grand slam, they also beat the Wallabies 2-1 in a best-of-three series and collected their second win in three Tests against the All Blacks with a 16-9 victory in Dublin.

The team was even crowned World Rugby's team of the year for their efforts and took the No.1 spot off the All Blacks for a while but all of it meant nothing in Japan this year.

The Irish side were stunned in pool play when they lost 19-12 to hosts Japan, eventually finishing second in Group A and therefore having to meet two-time defending champions the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Ireland couldn't replicate their giant-slaying prowess in Tokyo as the All Blacks went on to claim a 46-14 win and move on to the semis, leaving coach Joe Schmidt to ponder.

The departing coach said his side peaked too early.

"I do think when you hit a height there is always, I guess, a little bit of a drop - it's not perfect," Schmidt said.

"We work with human beings."

Schmidt said the team had used this year's Six Nations as a chance to further develop younger members of the squad but when he needed it all to come together again, it simply didn't.

"I don't really have a reason other than on the night there's always anxiety, there's always guys who might overreach and as a result, you don't get the performance you were looking for."

The loss means Ireland are now 0-7 in Rugby World Cup knockout games, having never progressed past the quarter-finals.