Ireland coach Joe Schmidt bemoaned his side’s slow start which saw them eventually walloped by Argentina in Sunday’s quarter-final loss.
The Irish were left reeling after a blistering start from Argentina which saw them lead 17-0 after just 12 minutes.
An Irish response was expected, and it came, trailing 23-20 at one stage, before the Pumas stormed away in the final quarter to win 43-20.
“I’m incredibly proud of the way the players fought their way back into the game,” Schmidt said. “It was a very tough situation to find themselves in.”
Ireland were missing several key players including captain Paul O’Connell, Jonny Sexton and Sean O’Brien.
Schmidt said: We were probably a little bit naive. We missed a little bit of that experience and direction in the first quarter.
“The way they fought their way back to be down by 10 at half-time, and then by three, and in the 58th minute one kick away from maybe drawing level and giving ourselves a little bit of a kick of confidence.
“I always felt watching the players, they felt that they had to keep chasing and keep chasing, and that’s going to take its toll.
Argentina’s ferocious intensity at the breakdown put Ireland on the back foot early on.
Schmidt said: “Usually you’d have a couple of voices there to say, ‘Lads, let’s not overcommit here, let’s keep our discipline.’
“It was just disappointing that we were in the situation that we were in. We probably lacked a little bit of the carry that we’d normally have but at the same time, you can’t fault effort.
“No matter what happened today, I always felt that they’d put that effort in.
“The supporters are disappointed but nobody’s more disappointed than the players in the dressing room.”
“You’re not making any excuses because the tournament can work out like that (with injuries),” said Schmidt.
Outside centre Earls was shut down at every turn by the frenzied Pumas defence, admitting afterwards Ireland’s feeling of impotence to be 17 points down after just 12 minutes.
“It’s devastating to be going home tomorrow after putting your body on the line for the whole tournament,” said Earls.
“We thought we were in a good place last week. We had a few injuries and we were missing a few massive leaders, but it’s not easy when you give a team a 17-point lead after 15 minutes.
“It was bizarre. I looked up at one stage and it was only 12 minutes gone. But they like to suck in defenders and they’re big, strong men and they got outside us.
“Our defence was off a few times in the first half and sometimes in these games you only get one or two chances and they took their chances.”