Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland quarter-final exit still hangs over Johnny Sexton

Ireland first-five Johnny Sexton admits it will take a "long time" to overcome their quarter-final exit at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

The Irish headed into the tournament as the No.1 nation, but failed to reach the heights expected. 

A 19-12 defeat to Japan saw Ireland finish second in their group, earning a quarter-final against the All Blacks, which they lost 46-14. 

Heading into the match, Ireland had beaten New Zealand twice in three previous meetings, but the defeat was their seventh quarter-final exit in nine World Cups. 

Speaking at the launch for the European Champions Cup, the continent's elite club rugby tournament, Sexton said: "It'll be hard to get over, it'll be a long time.

"We haven't sat down and talked about it. Ultimately, we didn't do the basics well enough against New Zealand, but it'll be tough to live with.

"We got to where we wanted to get to, which was that quarter-final. I know it was against New Zealand and not South Africa, but either of those games were going to be incredibly tough.

"We knew we had to produce our best performance to get past it and we didn't come close to it. They were excellent on the day, it's as simple as that.

"There's going to be hundreds of conspiracy theories and people wanting to give their opinion, but that's the bottom line."

Sexton also admitted that he was shocked with the criticism coach Joe Schmidt received after the loss to the All Blacks.

Many felt that the loss had tainted his reputation, but Sexton defended the departing Kiwi, who is returning to his country of birth for family reasons. 

"You just think about the success he's had," he said. "He has the best win percentage by a country mile.

"He's changed the expectations of Irish rugby, of Irish supporters. He did it in Leinster and did it again.

"If we had done what he asked of us in the quarter-final, would we have won it? We'll never know, because we didn't do it.

"We should take the majority of the blame as players, but his legacy in the players' eyes will always be there."