The process of gearing up for a World Cup quarter-final hung like a dark cloud over Ireland, reckons Joe Schmidt, although the realisation didn't come until it was too late.
Ever since defeat to Argentina at that stage of the 2015 RWC, the head coach had one eye on recording a first-ever World Cup knock-out win and that proved to be the team's downfall, the former boss says in his new book, Ordinary Joe.
By the time Ireland were crushed 46-14 by New Zealand in Tokyo the team had lost its gold standard of "cohesion and confidence", says Schmidt, who will be a guest on The Late Late Show tomorrow night.
The New Zealander, who stepped away from his role after six-and-a-half years in October, had previously cited errors in execution as the reason why the team fell short and suffered five losses in 2019, following a glittering 2018.
In addition, unconvincing wins over Italy in the Six Nations and against Russia at the World Cup pointed towards a wider malaise.
Following the Six Nations loss to Wales he had urged "the genuine supporter not to lose faith in the team. The team will definitely turn up in Japan and we'll grow a bit from this."
Schmidt and his coaching staff had placed faith in a process that was supposed to see the team peak for a quarter-final, with even a record-breaking defeat to England in a warm-up game mitigated as part of a grander plan.
However, the medium-term thinking did more damage than the Kiwi foresaw.
"Our performances did not have the consistency of 2018; our levels of accuracy and cohesion fluctuated from game to game, and during games," he wrote.
"On reflection, I don’t believe that you can afford to taper and peak: you have to be building all the time, and that is done training by training, and performance by performance.
"Our level of performance slipped as we started to look too far ahead, and we couldn’t just step back on to the pitch and play with the same level of accuracy, cohesion and confidence.
"I think the players will build from the defeat to a very good All Blacks team.
"But when looking more broadly at the RWC, I think there’s a danger in becoming too focused on delivering one-off performances at the end of four-year cycles; that it is more about having a growth mindset on a weekly basis to improve player capability, build team cohesion and strengthen the squad’s identity."
The 54-year-old also revealed that he had attempted to get the pool match against Samoa blown up early over concerns about the state of the pitch and player safety.
It was Ireland’s last group game and they had four tries on board by half-time of a 47-5 win.
He said: "Our concern as the match continued was player safety, with the pitch lifting up in places and uneven in others. Fine gravel was seeping up through the seams and a number of players finished with abrasions.
"We discussed the state of the pitch in the coaches’ box and sent a message to [Ireland team manager] Paul Dean to request that the match be called off early.
"Deano approached the match manager and a message was conveyed onto the referee, via the fourth official.
"The referee chose to continue but chatting to the Samoans and the players later, we thought it was incredible that two teams at rugby’s premier tournament had to play on a pitch as badly cobbled together as that one was."
The Late Late Show airs on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player tomorrow at 9.35pm.