What brought NZ back from the brink?
What brought NZ back from the brink?SHARE
New Zealand coming back twice from seemingly impossible positions in Tests to become the first team in the professional era to win all their Test matches in a calendar year stems from something former All Black captain Todd Blackadder once told present incumbent Richie McCaw.
McCaw, who captained New Zealand to the 2011 World Cup trophy on home soil with an 8-7 win over France, revealed this rare insight into his inner thoughts moments after his side had ensured their place in history with the last kick of an epic Test with rank outsiders Ireland at Lansdowne Road.
Aaron Cruden converted a Ryan Crotty try to win the match 24-22 and complete a remarkable comeback from being 0-19 down after 17 minutes and trailing 7-22 at half-time.
McCaw said this win and the one over South Africa – they were trailing 24-27 in the second-half and a man down, but turned the game around scoring two tries – to retain the Rugby Championship title in October – were examples of taking Blackadder's words to heart.
"With this side it comes down to self-belief," said McCaw, who was winning his 124th cap on the ground where he made his Test debut in 2001 and who has not played in all the Tests this year because of injury,.
"I remember when I was a young player and Canterbury were down by a large margin in a Ranfurly Shield game and the skipper Todd Blackadder [who captained the All Blacks 14 times in the late 1990's] turned to us and said this isn't a lost cause, this is winnable.
"He was right too. We had 15 guys out there believing till the end that day and we had the same against South Africa and Ireland, because as captain if I let my head drop then theirs will as well.
"Here [Dublin] we stuck to that adage. We tried throughout the match to play the type of rugby we wanted to play, and it was only really the final try that saw us succeed in doing so."
All Black coach Steve Hansen concurred with his captain.
"What Blackadder said that day is true. You are never out of a game," said the 54-year-old, who is in his second spell as a national coach having coached Wales from 2002-04.
"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 sort of match will serve the young players well."
McCaw, three times the International Rugby Board player of the year, said the emotions at achieving a 100 percent winning record in their 14 Tests were fairly mixed because of how tight the Irish game had been.
"It is relief at the moment," he said.
"But as the day goes on and the weeks we will reflect on what has been a tough year for us.
"A lot of pride and hard work has gone into the year. Around 40 players have been part of it through injuries and selection choices. But I think we can pat ourselves on the back."
McCaw, who admitted earlier in the European tour (they also beat France and England) unlike several of his fellow World Cup winning teammates he had never thought about a lucrative move to a European club, said they had had everything thrown at them this year but had succeeded in seeing them all off.
"Reflecting back on the year, we've played pretty much all the teams round the world from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere," he said.
"The style of games have been very different between the sides from the two hemispheres.
"We've won with good performances and then we've won when our performance hasn't been so good, where the opposition hasn't allowed us to express ourselves.
"I'm very proud of what we have achieved. Obviously we would like to put up a very good performance every time we play but don't forget there are 15 guys out there trying to stop us.
"We've been tested in every way and we have come out on top."