Gregor Townsend heaped praise on an Ireland side that “could dominate world rugby for the next five to ten years” after Scotland’s World Cup campaign came to a painful end as they were put to the sword by the world No. 1 side.

Ireland had a try-scoring bonus point wrapped up by half-time as they came roaring out of the blocks in an eventual 36-14 win in Paris. 

The Scots, requiring a comfortable victory to reach the quarter-finals, were blown away by Irish accuracy and execution as any hope of a famous victory for Townsend’s side quickly evaporated.

After the game, Townsend was questioned about whether he had concerns for the future, with Ireland’s youth structures looking in a far stronger place than in Scotland.

“At a young level, that’s right,” said Townsend. 

“But I would say this World Cup has shown we’ve got really good depth in the top 30. We’ve got 33 players here and we made 12 changes between our last two games, so the players in this group and just outside this group are Test quality, but we have to get more players through.

“The way Irish rugby is set up, they could dominate world rugby for the next five to ten years, because they are the number one team in the world and they have a pro rugby system which is very strong, and they’ve got an age group system that is very strong, so that should continue for them.

“We’ve got to do better. This group of players have got to fifth in the world, which is the best place we’ve ever been in terms of the Scotland national team, but we have to make sure that continues, not for the next couple of years but the next 10 years.”

The defeat marked a second consecutive pool-stage exit for the Scots, who suffered defeats to Ireland and Japan four years ago in another underwhelming tournament performance.

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But Townsend pointed to a lopsided draw – made two-and-a-half years before the event – as one reason why parallels should not be drawn between the two World Cups.

“I think you need to look at each World Cup differently. We were drawn against the number one and number two teams in the world [Ireland and South Africa], and we lost to them both,” he said.

“We’ve never beaten a team ranked above us in any World Cup we’ve played in, so you might have to go all the way back to 1987 to ask: can we do better?

“We certainly have to do better, and the responsibility is mine. We believed we could get out of this pool, and we still believed that after losing to South Africa with the response the players showed in training and the games they played gave us an opportunity tonight, which we didn’t take – Ireland took.

“They are a better team than us on tonight’s performance, and they’ve won 17 games in a row, so they’ve clearly been the better team over the last couple of years.

“Now, if we can get on the journey they have been on the last few years then great – but it is easy saying that, it is another thing doing it.

“You become a better team through defeats as well as victories, and we’ve got to make sure that this defeat makes us a better team for the Six Nations coming up and the next World Cup, although at this point the Six Nations is much more relevant.”

Scotland’s hopes were dented by injuries to captain Jamie Ritchie – who said he had taken a shoulder-to-shoulder knock that left him unable to continue at full strength – Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham.

“Blair hit someone’s knee accidentally, I think,” Townsend explained.

“The independent doctor noticed that and he failed his HIA and still had symptoms, so it was the right thing that he was spotted and removed from the field.

“Darcy had hip-flexor trouble and felt he couldn’t run at top speed, so he came off.”