TOKYO, 14 Oct – Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg admits he is hurting, and said the team are "absolutely devastated" after only their second pool-stage exit at a Rugby World Cup.
Gregor Townsend's side arrived with high hopes of at least reaching the knockout stages but pool defeats by Ireland and hosts Japan mean they are heading home.
"It is going to hurt because we came here believing we could achieve something special and we haven't managed to get out of the group stages," said the 27-year-old Hogg, pictured after the defeat by Japan on Sunday.
"It's tough for us. We are bitterly disappointed. We can't change anything and we are going home.
"We have to make sure that next time we get together we start to realise that things won't go our way all the time. I truly believe we will be better for the experience although it is going to kill us for a few months."
Scotland started well on Sunday with an early Finn Russell try but three Japan scores before the interval from Kotaro Matsushima, Keita Inagaki and Kenki Fukuoka put the hosts in command.
Fukuoka's converted second try soon after the break made it 28-7 before Scotland staged a comeback, but they fell short of the eight-point winning margin – with a bonus point – they required.
"If I am brutally honest we got beaten by the better side," said Hogg, who won his 72nd cap in the 28-21 defeat at a febrile International Stadium Yokohama.
"Maybe our expectations are not as high as we want them to be. We have to go back to the drawing board and learn, and want to improve, and put our bodies on the line at every opportunity.
"We knew Japan were going to bring some heat and we believed we had the gameplan to make the most of that. At times we created chances but couldn't finish them off due to a lack of accuracy."
While Hogg heads home to begin life with his new club Exeter Chiefs in England's Premiership, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend will chew over the bones of a campaign that started badly against Ireland, picked up momentum with clinical wins over Samoa and Russia, but ultimately ended with a chastening defeat and failure to reach their minimum target of a quarter-final spot.
Asked whether he has taken the side as far as he can in his two-and-a-half years in charge, the former Scotland fly-half was adamant "there is a lot more in this team".
"Experiences are what make you as a group, and how you react to these experiences," he said.
"That was a unique situation we were in tonight. It was always going to be a challenge given the way Japan were playing and the (four-day) turnaround (after the Russia game). But we had the team and the ability to go on and win by the necessary amount of points. That we didn't is a huge disappointment.
"We had an opportunity to win tonight and we didn't take it. You don't get another shot in a World Cup, but we have got to improve as we hit our next tournament, in the Six Nations in a few months' time."