SOLDIER FIELD, Chicago — Ireland coach Joe Schmidt put their historic victory over the All Blacks down to the strength of character in their heroic side.
Ireland hadn’t beaten the All Blacks in 111 years until they met under the Chicago sun on Saturday afternoon in Soldier Field and though they had limited time together in the week building up to the Test, Schmidt said they stuck to the tried and tested to secure their history-making triumph.
“I hoped that was coming — the players determined that it did arrive,” Schmidt said. “The All Blacks were missing a number of second-rows and that allowed us access to the game and gave us the position we needed to put pressure on.
“They got a few injuries during the game and when you have a loose-forward on the wing that gave us a bit of confidence. Over the half the lads were playing PRO12 rugby last weekend and to click everything together as quickly as we could was great and we tried to have some consistency with previous combinations to be as cohesive as possible. Sometimes it’s character more than cohesion and that was evident today.”
The victory wasn’t without its nervous spells. The All Blacks came storming back in the second half in a manner reminiscent to their fightback in 2013 when they turned Ireland’s 19-0 lead on its head to win in the last play of the game in Dublin.
Those memories would’ve been in the back of the Ireland players’ minds but they stuck together with the bench giving them a fresh impetus in front of thousands of Irish fans at Soldier Field.
Schmidt said “Chicago will always be a special place for us” and the game had added significance as it was Ireland’s first Test since the death of Munster coach Anthony Foley.
The team paid tribute to the late, great Foley by forming a No.8 to face the haka. “A lot has been done to pay tribute to Axel,” said captain Rory Best.
“It is the national team’s first time together since his passing and we felt it was the right thing to do and we put the Munster boys at the front to lead it. It was our way as a national team to show a mark of respect to Axel.”
Best added that the win was in part down to the amount of off-field work the team did this week due to their lack of training sessions.
“There’ve been a lot of great teams and players and we haven’t been clinical enough to finish it. We lost it in the last quarter in 2013 but the subs came on with Joey and the front-row gave us a platform. All of that contributed and we are a tight group, we did a lot of homework.”
Ireland will celebrate the triumph in Chicago on Saturday night and on the plane back home on Sunday with Schmidt saying they will lift their self-imposed alcohol ban. But Best knows it will soon be back to business as usual with Canada lying in wait next weekend.
“You have to take a moment when you create history — knowing Joe it’ll be a brief moment,” Best said. “It’s quite hard to sit here and it’s a massive mark of respect for the All Blacks that it means so much to us.
“They’re such a quality side and they’ve shown it this season. To break our duck against that quality of side is massive for us and we want to celebrate that. But we have to be humble to have that respect for them.”
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17978720/character-cohesion-key-ireland-win-all-blacks
Character over cohesion key to Irish win – Schmidt
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