New Zealand

Hansen hails 'special' All Blacks

Sun, 24 Nov 2013 19:39
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That wasn't in the script, that is for sure
Quote-end

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was a proud man after a dramatic comeback against Ireland capped an unbeaten year for his side.

The world champions were forced to come from behind to become the first team to win every match in a calendar year in the professional era.

The All Blacks looked like they were down and out with the Irish in possession deep in their half with less than a minute to go but they got a penalty and moved the ball downfield for Ryan Crotty to score a try - which Aaron Cruden converted at the second opportunity.

Hansen - who stepped up to the senior role after being Graham Henry's assistant when the All Blacks won the 2011 World Cup on home soil - paid a handsome tribute to the Irish who had been less than a minute away from making history themselves in recording their first ever win over the visitors.

"I'd like to compliment Ireland on a sensational performance, they rattled us and had us 15 points down. They were outstanding," said the 54-year-old, who is in his second spell as a national team coach having coached Wales from 2002-04.

"That wasn't in the script, that is for sure. However, I am extremely proud of the 23 guys who came from where they did and clawed their way over the line.

"It was special and is a great achievement. It has been a great year.

"However, we have a lot of work to do to stay where we are."

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who made his debut at Lansdowne Road in 2001, and in that match faced having to come back from almost an identical deficit of 21-7, said the turning point in the final minutes of the match had been when Irish flyhalf Johnny Sexton missed a kickable penalty four minutes from time.

"I thought if that had gone over it would have been game over but instead it missed and I could feel our players get a lift from that," said the 32-year-old, who was winning his 124th cap.

"The Irish guys then tried to eat up time but I have always felt as a player that can backfire and so it did here.

"There is a bit of a funny atmosphere in the changing room. It is one of relief that we got over the line. Maybe it was an ugly performance but it is pretty special what we have achieved and to claw it back like we did makes me so proud."

Hansen, who remarked that at half-time he had told the players to keep calm and prevent the Irish scoring any more points, said it hadn't been the case of the All Blacks taking the victory for granted over a side that was rated 10/1 outsiders to win and had performed lamely last Saturday in a 32-15 defeat by Australia.

"I don't see it as the All Blacks not turning up, it is just the Irish did and forced us to make mistakes.

"We trained really hard all week but when you start like the Irish did then you gain in self-belief, so it wasn't a question of us having too much self-belief but when the Irish actually began to believe they could do it.

"We just got better, it wasn't a case of the Irish going off the boil. I agree with Richie that if the penalty had gone over then it would have been over.

"However, it didn't and gave us a sniff, which my guys gladly didn't pass on and we grabbed a special victory."

Hansen said the All Blacks had proved the old adage of never giving up until the final whistle goes.

"What we will take out of this is it doesn't matter what it says up on the scoreboard. If you have the composure and the mental fortitude you can redress any deficit.

"This will serve the young players well."

As for what he had said to the players, Hansen revealed he hadn't spoken to them collectively yet but he knew what his first words would be.

"I'm extremely proud of you."

AFP

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