RORY Best has said that Ireland have missed out on a fantastic opportunity to be world champions.
The Ulster captain, from Acton, admitted that Ireland secretly had designs on winning the Webb Ellis trophy.
Beating Australia en-route to the last eight strengthened the team's resolve that this was to be their year
But it wasn't to be as Ireland crashed to a quarter final defeat to Wales on Saturday morning.
"It will take a while to get over this. There's no doubt that this was a fantastic chance, we all knew it," said the Banbridge clubman.
"We all knew that topping our group would put us in a north-south hemisphere split and turn it into knockout Six Nations rugby.
"We knew we had the ability to win that side of the draw, but we also knew we had to turn up on the day.
"Once we get home and when we're in the cold light of day, we'll reflect on some fantastic moments.
"There was the atmosphere at Auckland Park and Otago Stadium. The support we've had has been great.
"But the bottom line is that we travelled to New Zealand to win the World Cup. We didn't talk a whole lot about it, but that was our ambition.
"We knew deep down that we hadn't really performed on the big stage before and this was the time to do it.
"We got to the quarter-final confident that we could win, but failed to achieve that.
"Any time you get to that stage of a competition it's always an opportunity missed, unless you get to the final and win it."
Wales, coached by former Ireland coach Warren Gatland, can now go on and win the tournament, he says. They play France in the semi-finals.
"Credit to Wales, they came at us and didn't let us settle or gather breath. They were deserving winners," he said.
"Good luck to Wales next weekend, they thoroughly deserve to be there. We can have no complaints.
"There's no doubt Wales can reach the final. The beauty of this side of the draw is that it's very much the Six Nations.
"Wales have shown in the recent past that they can win Grand Slams. That's basically what they have to do now to get to the final."