Irish Rugby bids farewell to leadership after quarter-final exit

Ireland's most successful head coach has taken charge of his final match on the IRFU payroll and will hand the reins to current defence coach Andy Farrell.

Irish Rugby bids farewell to leadership after quarter-final exit

Ireland's most successful head coach has taken charge of his final match on the IRFU payroll and will hand the reins to current defence coach Andy Farrell before taking a sabbatical from the game after six-and-a-half years at the helm.

So what a disappointment to have this World Cup quarter-final exit and desperately poor performance as the final game on what has been a remarkable record.

So farewell to…

Joe Schmidt

Ireland's most successful head coach has taken charge of his final match on the IRFU payroll and will hand the reins to current defence coach Andy Farrell before taking a sabbatical from the game after six-and-a-half years at the helm. So what a disappointment to have this World Cup quarter-final exit and desperately poor performance as the final game on what has been a remarkable record.

Schmidt admitted he felt "a little bit broken " by what was a comprehensive defeat, his second such experience following the heavy loss for his injury-hit team to Argentina at the same stage in 2015. This one will definitely hurt more given the way Ireland had few excuses for such a flat and error-riddled performance. Time will prove kind to Schmidt when he reflects on his tenure, one that lifted Ireland's standing in the game to previously unsealed heights, but this will feel raw for quite some time.

Greg Feek

The scrum coach and former All Black who has been at fellow New Zealander Schmidt's side since their Leinster days also steps down from his role on the Ireland coaching staff. Feek will also go his own way by remaining in Japan where has been working as an assistant coach with the NEC Green Rockets, just east of Tokyo.

He leaves behind a strong legacy with Ireland’s scrum one of its strongest attacking platforms and a reputation for scrummaging the correct way. On Feek’s watch, Tadhg Furlong has developed into one of the finest, if not the best tighthead prop in the world and there is plenty of strength in depth with the likes of Andrew Porter able to play effectively on both corners and Dave Kilcoyne now offering a viable alternative at loosehead to veteran Cian Healy.

Feek will be replaced by Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty when Andy Farrell takes charge as head coach next month ahead of the 2020 Six Nations.

Rory Best

The captain’s Test career began and ended with a defeat to the All Blacks, 15 seasons apart but the hooker has an awful lot more to look back on with fondness and pride.

Sticking to his decision to retire from professional rugby at the conclusion of Ireland’s World Cup campaign, the 37-year-old bowed out after making his 124th Test appearance in his 15th Rugby World Cup game and captaining Ireland for the 38th time. Only Brian O'Driscoll led Ireland on more occasions, 83, and only O’Driscoll and Paul O'Connell played more games in this tournament, 17 times each.

Like his predecessors, Best led by example and did so consistently well for a long period of time, into his late 30s, his remarkable staying power on full display against Scotland in the opening pool game when he was required to play the full 80 minutes, an almost unheard of occurrence in modern rugby.

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