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Dublin: 9°C Friday 7 May 2021

'It was the right thing to do. We put the Munster boys at the front'

Ireland formed a figure of eight in memory of Anthony Foley before their historic win over the All Blacks.

Murray Kinsella reports from Soldier Field

IT WAS AN unforgettable moment in a day full of them.

This particular moment came before Ireland’s incredible 40-29 victory against the All Blacks, the first win over New Zealand at senior men’s level in Irish rugby history.

Ireland team face the Haka in a shape of eight in memory of Anthony Foley of Munster Munster players stood at the front of the Ireland figure of eight. Source: INPHO/Billy Stickland

With the Kiwis forming their usual triangle to carry out the haka, Rory Best and his team-mates settled into a figure of eight, with Munster players Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo at the front along with debutant Joey Carbery.

Hands by their sides, calm and poised, staring the haka down. Fronting up to the challenge, in a manner Foley would have appreciated. A sensational show of respect for ‘Axel’.

Speaking after the historic win, Best said he and the Ireland squad felt that standing in the figure of eight to face New Zealand’s haka at Soldier Field was the right thing to do in paying tribute to Foley.

It was something that we talked about through the management to the players,” said Best. “I think a lot has been made of the really sad news that Munster got a few weeks ago and this was the national team’s first time together since his passing.

“We felt that it was the right thing to do and then to put the Munster boys at the front of that, for them to lead that number eight, it just felt like the right thing to do and it was our way as an Irish national team to show a mark of respect to Axel and his family.”

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Head coach Joe Schmidt said his players had paid a fine tribute to the Munster legend, in front of a crowd of 62,300.

“I really thought that the players did themselves proud and to be fair, they did Axel proud, and his family,” said Schmidt. “They did their country proud today and I think the supporters did pretty well as well.”

The Ireland team during the Haka Ireland provide an unforgettable moment in a day full of them. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Best felt that Ireland had been able to channel the emotion around the entire occasion in Chicago perfectly, especially because their preparation early in the week had been ideal.

“We had not as much time as we’re used to together, but we were prepared,” said Best. “We put a lot of pressure on to do as much homework off the pitch because we didn’t have as much time on it.

Obviously, there was a lot of emotion and I’m sure some of the Munster boys got a bit from that. It was just an emotionally-charged day from us because we knew we had a great opportunity.

“Ultimately, we did a lot of our work during the week to make sure that was banked so we could draw on a bit of that emotion.”

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Murray Kinsella

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