Joe Schmidt blasted Ireland’s performance as “dishevelled” after his side suffered a 57-15 humiliation at the hands of a rampant England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ireland has started the day with the number one spot in the world rankings in reach if they could deliver a victory in London but they ended with their World Cup hopes dealt a terrible blow four weeks out from their tournament kick-off after conceding eight tries to a powerhouse English side that laid down a serious marker for their own prospects in Japan.
Asked for his biggest disappointments from the Twickenham horror show, Schmidt said: "There's probably a litany of them, to be honest. We didn't get our set-piece going, we didn't really scavenge as well as we would have liked to. We fell off 34 tackles, 21 of them in the first half.
"I thought there was a little bit of positive in the first quarter. It was tight in that first quarter. Obviously when we went to 10-8 (in front), there was a bit of promise there. But it's very disappointing.
"That (Manu Tuilagi) try just before half-time, when Conor (Murray) was down and they worked the overlap against 14 men. We've got to be able to defend with 14 men, I certainly would never use that as an excuse, but they did well there. Just to go into the shed at half-time at 22-10, it's a big difference to 15-10 because you're two scores away then.
"I think we were underdone, we were a bit heavy-legged. There doesn't have to be too much a margin between two teams, one v one, for one to be a bit sluggish and one to be on top of your game. Certainly for some of their guys, they've had two games, this is their third game, and they looked sharper than we were."
Scrum-half Murray passed a Head Injury Assessment and returned to the field just before half time before being replaced permanently at the break while prop Cian Healy will be a concern after hobbling off with a right ankle injury.
Of greater concern though will be Ireland’s meek resistance in 30C heat to this England machine which has established itself as genuine World Cup contenders.
With back-to-back games against Wales coming up in the next two Saturdays and Ireland opening their pool campaign on September 22 against Scotland, Schmidt determined to turn things around.
"I know we can get better than that, I know we have to. I think the players will take responsibility for making sure that they do everything they can to turn it around next week and then build forward the week after that because what really matters is in four weeks' time.
"We've got to go out and be as competitive and as accurate as we can be in Scotland. They had a 30-point margin against them last week and they turned around to win today.
"So it's a little bit what happens at this time of the year in the lead-up to a World Cup, you do get some disproportionate scores but we still have to accept that we were not nearly good enough today. We've got to be a lot better next time around."
Of the injury concerns, Schmidt added: "Cian sprained his ankle. He has had an x-ray and that's clear, so we're hopeful. He walked from the pitch so we're hopeful that he'll be ok.
"With Conor, he passed his HIA. We had a bit of a breakdown in our communications and he wasn't actually meant to go back out before half-time. At half-time we took him off, we were only planning to give him maybe 40 or 50 minutes and give Luke (McGrath) a decent run.
"It's one of the things at this time of the year leading into a World Cup - you are trying to mix and match and give different amounts of time to different players to let them put their best foot forward and also to build a little bit of continuity for some of those guys we haven't had as much time in the team over recent years."