Joe Schmidt has said he is "absolutely committed" to coaching Ireland into the future but admitted to some regrets after Ireland's exit at the quarter-final stage.
The Ireland head coach appeared on the Late Late Show on Friday night, less than a week after Ireland’s disappointing Rugby World Cup exit at the quarter-final stage.
Ireland lost that last-eight clash 43-20 to Argentina, who will face Australia in the semi-final on Sunday.
Asked by host Ryan Tubridy about rumours that he could leave for England, Schmidt said: “I’m absolutely committed to the group of young men that I work with. They are such a good group. I can’t wait to get started post-Christmas, looking towards the Six Nations. We are going forward as best we can and I’m certainly not going anywhere.”
Schmidt admitted to having some regrets about Ireland’s exit, with Ireland’s injuries, a key missed kick against the Pumas and ‘overchasing’ in the last quarter among them.
Ireland lost Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Sexton and Peter O’Mahony to injury in their final group match against France, while Sean O’Brien was ruled out of the meeting with Argentina due to a one-week suspension. Jared Payne had left the squad with a foot injury earlier in the tournament.
Schmidt said: “We lost to a really good, physical Argentinian side probably without a few guys that we think could have made a difference for us, particularly just to keep the calm and keep the confidence of the players up.”
Ian Madigan missed a kick at goal that would have levelled the match in the second half before Argentina pulled away with two late tries.
“Probably the most disappointing thing for me was the start we made, and then to get within 23-20 and have a kick at goal to make it 23-all was an unbelievable effort from such an inexperienced group. Then I think we overchased it and unfortunately it got away from us.”
Later in the interview, he commented: “I was talking to (Juan) Fernandez Lobbe after the game and he said that at 23-20 if the kick goes over, the doubt is growing.”
Schmidt admitted that the talismanic O’Connell’s injury was particularly damaging to Ireland’s hopes, saying: “He’s a voice of calm but he is not even a voice that is used often. He is a presence. It’s a calming presence. It’s a physical presence. It’s an ability to lead men without saying much.”
O’Connell is due to link up with Toulon in France once he has recovered from his hamstring and Schmidt hinted at the possibility of a coaching role in the future in the Irish set-up.
He added: “Talking to him today, he is bouncing back. He’s almost always got a really positive outlook and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him on a rugby field, at least I hope not, and we certainly haven’t seen the last of him involved with an Ireland team in the future I hope.”
Schmidt admitted that naming Sexton in the team and then being forced to replace him at a late stage with Madigan was disruptive.
He said: “One of the regrets I probably have now is Jonny’s fitness was declared early in the week on the Wednesday. He trained on the Friday.
“For Ian Madigan to come in, he really had a small window of about 25 minutes to really prepare himself for the Test. It is not a great window to prepare.
“We felt that Jonny was going to be OK and he trained OK. But we knew it was too much of a risk to put him out there.”
Schmidt also paid tribute to the Irish support, who outnumbered their counterparts at every match.
He said: “We were really blown away by the support and the number of messages coming to us from home. The people who sacrificed a fair bit to get over. It was difficult to get flights, it was difficult to get accommodation, but they flooded in and they made any place that we played a home ground.
“My disappointment was that we couldn’t give them another two weeks’ of excitement is massive because they gave us a huge boost and all I can say is we are going to work as hard as we can to justify the support that we get and hope it continues.”