‘It comes down to belief, I’ve never ever given up’ – Richie McCaw
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praises Ireland for ‘sensational’ performance
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen congratulates his captain Richie McCaw following their victory yesterday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images)
Glorious defeat has so often been defined for Ireland by the All Blacks. They are rugby’s mountain top and on occasions they have allowed Ireland take a peak into their world of unbreakable self belief and faith in the system.
Steve Hansen and New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, battered and blood still leaking out of a gash over his right eye, reinforced the idea of a team that never departs from their gospel, does not give up and always look to themselves for solutions. But Hansen also threw some bouquets Ireland’s way and with no hint of patronising the locals he spoke of an Irish team that rattled their cage and on another day may have won the match.
“I’d like to congratulate Ireland on what was a sensational performance,” said the New Zealand coach. “Early in the game they certainly rattled us…19 points down, it wasn’t the script that’s for sure.
“They should take a lot of credit out of their performance. In saying that and I’m extremely proud of the 23 guys we had in our group today. To come from where we had to come from and claw our way across the line took a pretty special effort and that’s why we’re pretty special team.
“Maybe another day Ireland would have won it. But we’ll take it, enjoy the summer and reflect on what’s been a great year. But it is Important we acknowledge the terrific performance from Ireland.”
Hansen spoke as if he were taking passages from the All Black bible, something they continue to write and modernise themselves, a blue print for every aspiring international team. Early in the week Cian Healy spoke of not calling them All Blacks but sticking with New Zealand because it removed the mystery from them. It made them flesh and blood. Yesterday Hansen and McCaw removed more of those mystical layers.
“It comes down to belief, I’ve never ever given up,” said McCaw of their last kick win. “I’ve always been proud of All Blacks never giving up. We’d 15 guys out there still believing.
“There is no point trying to do it all yourself,” he added pointing to a team ethic that is now so ingrained that they don’t depart even with the minutes and seconds frittering away. “You see teams under pressure that try to make something out of nothing. It never works. We saw that at the end that guys stuck to way we wanted to play from start. You’ve got to be as calm as you can even though your heart is ticking and your mind is racing. Talk calm and have a plan and you can give it a crack.”
Hansen stuck to the same methodology and while he could afford to be philosophical after the game fell his way, the halftime break was measured and lacking recrimination. New Zealand were trailing 22-7 but the coach also believes in the team creed.
“We were pretty calm the in box,it “ said Hansen. “I don’t know whether was because I thought we were gone or still had a chance. I think it was the latter. Everyone has a lot of faith in the group we had on the park. We just knew if we backed our skill sets and structures it would be ok. But at halftime there was no finger pointing.”
Clearly there is a mindset that New Zealand has which comes from winning. Unbeaten this year coveys confidence and imparts and easy reliance on the team’s ability. Ireland at least took them to a place they hadn’t been and they will learn from that.
“We didn’t want to celebrate too much. It’s a different kind of feeling knowing we got out of jail. But we’re proud of how we got there in the end,” said number 8 Kieran Read.
“This game throws up different obstacles and the way we adapted makes it a special win. We had to back ourselves, our shape and our game-plan. We had it in us. You can say a lot but you have to look at yourself. The guys feed off the leaders and the calmness.”
A great All Black escape? “Probably. It’s tough. Nineteen points is a hell of a lead. We don’t want to give up. It took 80 minutes and we got there,” added Read who understood the freight of Johnny Sexton’s kick sliding just by five or six minutes from the end
“A game changer. It kept us in the game. We showed how much ticker and how much fight we have in us,” he said.
Hansen, though ended where he began with a homage of sorts.
“Don’t see this as the All Blacks not having turned up today, turned up,” he warned. “Ireland turned up, forced mistakes and were good enough to score off them. All of a sudden they thought ‘gee we’re in this.’”