Respect is not earned in New Zealand rugby, a statement confirmed not only by the generous words of All Blacks head coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane after Ireland’s 2-1 series win, but also by the local media.
Andy Farrell’s Ireland side were not only lauded for their victories in Dunedin and Wellington after losing the first Test in Auckland, but in rugby they played on the road to making sporting history. This recognition crystallizes the magnitude of the achievement.
New Zealand Herald columnist Gregor Paul, who headlined Ireland are the legendary team the All Blacks once were, conceded: “Ireland have played with the speed, vision and daring that the All Blacks used to be had and currently want. but just don’t have all the nuts and pieces to get it right.
“They go home as deserved winners – the dominant partners in the relationship now and hopefully some of what they brought will rub off on the All Blacks.”
Liam Napier wrote in the same newspaper: “Before the pitchforks and effigies emerge from the angry mob demanding coaches’ heads, it is the height of ignorance not to acknowledge Andy Farrell’s world-class, intelligent and capable Irish team who have expertly dismantled the all Blacks in the last two weeks.
“Tourists fully deserve the recognition and applause that is bestowed upon them. At the end of their long season, this was a brutal five-game tour. On the other side, Ireland emerged with a big grin. And they’re sure to celebrate in style.
“For the All Blacks, however, the numbers don’t lie. You are indeed fierce. Unwanted recordings are piling up. There were no tickets to the All Blacks that week either. This is the first time in 24 years that the All Blacks have lost back-to-back home Tests – John Hart’s 1998 side was the last team to survive such a run and the first time they have lost a home series since 1994.
“Four wins from the last nine Tests strongly suggests something is broken on this All Blacks team. The empire is crumbling. Something has to change. Wolves are on the doorstep for Ian Foster, who now has a record 16/24, and his coaching staff.”
A disorderly line of ex-internationals and media has formed to fillet Foster and the ailing head coach can’t have been helped by a statement from New Zealand rugby boss Mark Robinson. It read: “Congratulations to the Irish team on their well deserved win last night but the All Blacks’ performance throughout the series was clearly not acceptable as we know they reflected. We all know there is a lot to do.
“Our focus now is to work with Ian and his team to get a thorough understanding of what it takes to improve performance and how to proceed ahead of the Rugby Championship. We’ll start that work right away.” Well, not quite, as a planned media conference with an All Blacks coaching staff has been cancelled.
Former players like Justin Marshall and Steve Devine have expressed their concerns not only about the coaching ticket but also about the composition of the team. Introspection will gather momentum in the coming days as calls for Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson to succeed Foster are likely to increase.
Jamie Wall writes under the Rugby heading: If you accept mediocrity, here’s what happens on the RNZ website: “Ireland have gone from being a fun little sideshow to a team that owns a majority of players who have beaten the All Blacks more times when they lost to them.
“A child born in New Zealand last year had more All Black losses to Ireland in their lifetime than a 100-year-old who died in 2019.”
He later ventured: “Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony even felt brave enough during the second Test to call Sam Cane, fuckin’ Richie McCaw,” a comment that should have served him with a form of retaliation. Instead, it’s just something that’s been rattling around in All Black’s mind as they make visit after visit behind their posts.
For Ireland, however, there is nothing on the flight home but respect earned on the pitches in New Zealand, where it matters most.
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