Rugby World CupNew Zealand Reaction

Cane and Foster credit All Blacks’ defence for digging out win over Ireland

New Zealand captain pays tribute to Johnny Sexton after his final appearance

New Zealand captain Sam Cane, who had an outstanding game, was grace personified in victory, especially in handling a couple of questions. The first was when he was asked to speak about Irish counterpart, Johnny Sexton, whose last match as a professional rugby player came at the Stade de France.

“He’s been outstanding for Ireland for a long time, he’s been there as long as I have been playing. He’s very good at taking the ball to the line, his decision-making, the way he directs the team, steers them around and does an outstanding job. Congratulations Johnny for an outstanding career.”

The second, moments later, he was asked about his run-in with Peter O’Mahony in Wellington last year in which the Irish flanker gave Cane a mouthful. The New Zealander defused the inquiry. “Nah, no motivation from that. We know they’ve got a few players that want to get under your skin but [we were] consciously focused on just sticking to our jobs and worrying about executing our stuff.”

Cane paid tribute to his team-mates during that heroic defensive stand in which they absorbed 37 phases of Irish attack right at the death. “What an incredible finish to a Test match, 37 phases, it’s as long as I have heard of or witnessed. The ability of the boys to just keep turning up for each other [was brilliant]. Obviously it’s pretty clear that defence probably won us the Test match tonight.”


New Zealand coach Ian Foster offered his overview of the match. “Look this is a special day for us. Excuse me, I’ve lost my voice because it got quite loud in that [coaches’] box. I think that the world’s been talking about these two quarter-finals for 12 months, even longer.

“They are massive games, [between] two very proud teams. You saw them desperate to want it and sometimes the sweetest victories are when your opponents play really well and it tests you to the limit.

“We didn’t want to play Ireland with two yellow cards. Ireland have a big record of winning big games when the opposition get cards and they [opponents] often do get carded when they play Ireland for some remote reason. I’m not sure why but at the end of the day we played a lot of that game with 14 men and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort of Sam and the players.

“The limelight was on Ireland, they had an amazing 17 wins in a row, you know they have built a team for this iconic moment. They had massive expectations to perform and we have been there as a team. We know what that’s like, and we know that some things fill you in that position, so our role was just to be quiet and steel ourselves for the challenge.”

Foster paid tribute to Jordie Barrett’s work in holding up Ronan Kelleher over the line but he felt that another moment was pivotal to the victory. “The other big moment was when we had a defensive lineout and scored 80 metres up the park. I thought that was a big moment in that second half because that there’s something about scoring long-range tries. To me that sort of set the platform for it [the win].”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer