The defiant Wallabies maintain the future is bright despite returning to Australia accepting they just weren't good enough after a humbling Rugby World Cup quarter-final exit.
Skipper Michael Hooper refused to blame coach Michael Cheika's erratic selections or high-risk game plan for Saturday's 40-16 loss to England on his arrival at Sydney airport on Tuesday.
"We weren't able to execute our big moments. Our game plan was solid. We believed, we bought into the game plan a hundred per cent," Hooper said.
"And by the way we started, which was (behind) a lot of the criticism we'd copped up until that point, was pretty good, pretty sharp.
"We came out of the blocks and had the English under a lot pressure."
The bottom line, though, was Australia crashed out with their heaviest-ever defeat at a global showpiece and the post mortem has been brutal.
Cheika quit on Sunday after bearing the brunt of the Wallabies' spectacular flop, but Hooper and retiring flanker David Pocock both maintained the embattled coach had the full backing of the entire 31-man squad throughout the tournament.
"Me personally, Cheik's been amazing for me. I owe that man a lot," Hooper said.
"The passion that he represented us, stood up for us all the time and just genuinely wanted the best for Australian rugby."
Still, Hooper can understand the fallout after Cheika used four different halves pairings in five games in Japan and doggedly refused to stray from his doomed all-out attacking approach.
"You can talk about game plan or certain skill areas in parts of the field, and we'll do a full review still of that game because it's a big-moment game and a lot of players who played in that game will be going on in the future," Hooper said.
"So we've got to have a look at how we would have done it different."
Cheika also made the stunning claim after standing down that he had virtually no relationship with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle.
Pocock, though, said the playing group was very much shielded from that dysfunctional dynamic and insisted the off-field friction had no bearing on the Wallabies' poor showing in Japan, or at any stage this year.
"There's no excuses," Pocock said.
"We prepared well and you've got to cop it on the chin. We weren't good enough."
But he believes there's light at the end of the tunnel as the Wallabies prepare for a generational change following the exodus of a host of stalwarts including Pocock, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Christian Lealiifano, Samu Kerevi and Sekope Kepu.
"Absolutely there's hope there. I think there's a lot of young guys coming through," he said.
"For myself in the back row, this is certainly the most competitive I've seen at a World Cup.
"The two I've been involved in, we were maybe a little bit leaner around flankers.
"This year anyone could have stepped up and done the job and you look across the franchises there's some really exciting young guys coming through who hopefully in a year or two will be making the step up."
Neither Hooper nor Pocock would be drawn on who should replace Cheika, who is adamant the job should go to an Australian coach.
Two-time Super Rugby-winning coach Dave Rennie is the frontrunner, with fellow New Zealander Jamie Joseph, former Wallabies mentor Eddie Jones - who remains contracted with England for two more years - and ex-assistant coach Stephen Larkham all been mentioned as possible candidates.
Australian Associated Press