Eve Muirhead's rare failure to return from a major World Championship has confirmed the urgent need to increase tournament play and improve practise conditions in Scotland according to the British curling programme's head of performance.

The Stirling-based team's heavy defeat in the bronze medal match in Sapporo, on their first return to the championships since winning the world title in 2013, was their second in succession in the play-off stages to a Russian rink they have previously dominated and approaching the end of his first season in charge Graham Thompson believes major lessons must be learned from how the sport is developing globally.

It was only the third time in 11 visits as a skip to Winter Olympics, World and European Championships that Muirhead has not returned with a medal, while she also won gold at all four World Junior Championships she contested, so having made a change at lead this season with Sarah Reid replacing Claire Hamilton, a fourth placed finish hardly represents a crisis and he acknowledged that Muirhead had paid a price for the aggressive approach that has previously served her so well.

"There's a lot of disappointment here," the performance director said of the 13-4 defeat registered when they accepted there was no point in continuing after eight of the scheduled 10 ends.

"This morning the first end was decisive. The option was there to steal a shot at the first end and they felt they could do it and get on top. It was a high risk strategy which didn't come off this time and I think some of the scoring after that opening end reflects their need to take further risks."

However, looking longer term and having set in place a re-structuring of the coaching set-up for the British programme, Thompson believes there is a real danger that the home of the sport could be left behind if it does not address the major issues confronting it.

"I think what we are seeing is a continuing raising of standards," he said.

"What we need is greater consistency both from our players as individuals and from all of them in the same match."

One consideration is the dominance of Muirhead's rink in Scotland, as compared with Switzerland for whom the rink led by Alina Paetz - who claimed the title with a brave last stone to beat Jennifer Jones' Canadians - were the fourth different representatives at these championships in four years.

Scottish organisers attempted an alternative way of exposing another skip and rink to the World Championships last year by denying Muirhead's team the chance to take part, but Kerry Barr, who led that effort, has since taken time out, while last year's Olympic bronze medallists are continuing to dominate the domestic scene.

That raises questions about whether they are put under enough competitive pressure.

"They do get a lot of that exposure to top level competition and have won a couple of Grand Slam tournaments against fields that are arguably stronger, but we need to reflect upon why it didn't happen when they wanted it most and it was interesting that a new Swiss team came through and delivered a gold in good style," said Thompson.

"One of the things the Swiss have is a lot of good tournaments in their own country which is something we are looking at.

"When it comes to how we invest we have to balance the costs of sending teams to major events, which are committed to doing, with running high quality competitions in Scotland that more of our teams can be involved in.

"However another key factor is getting the right amount of ice time because more and more of the other countries have all-year-round facilities.

"It's a skilful game and you've got to be practising your skills. Apparently the Russian team were all brought through talent transfer programmes from figure skating and they are throwing stones all year round, so they may not be as knowledgeable tactically, but they are incredibly accurate.

"We've got a great heritage with players who have grown up in the sport and we've got to keep that as an advantage.

"That was always something I considered urgent and this championship has just confirmed that."