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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen pays his respects to Anthony Foley
The Cubs’ lifted a curse in Chicago last night, so perhaps it a sign of things to come for Ireland.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Hyatt Regency, Chicago

STEVE HANSEN STROLLED into the makeshift media room at the All Blacks’ Chicago hotel, five minutes down the river from Ireland’s base, wearing his branded adidas tracksuit and flip flops.

The expectation was that he’d simply answer questions about Ireland, Joe Schmidt and the XV he has named for Saturday’s clash in Soldier Field, but he began by making a brief statement of his own.

Steve Hansen Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

First, congratulations to the Chicago Cubs, who last night ended 108-years of heartbreak by winning the World Series, sending the city into a state of blissful madness.

“Before we start, there’s a few things I’d like to say,” said Hansen. One is, I’d like to congratulate the Chicago Cubs and all of their fans on a great victory. It was a special night for them last night, a special game actually.

“To be able to win something after 108 years of trying is something special, so we’d like to congratulate them.”

Then Hansen’s tone became slightly muted as he paid his respects to a fallen legend of Irish rugby.

And on a more sombre note, we haven’t had the opportunity and we have the Irish people here, we’d like to convey a message of sympathy and best wishes to the Foley family on the death of Anthony.

“It was a tragedy and one that was felt right throughout the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

It was a classy touch from a man who drives the ‘better people make better All Blacks’ mantra within his squad, and also demonstrated the impact Foley’s death had on the entire rugby world.

The former Munster number eight and head coach passed away at the age of 42 in Paris 19 days ago, after a career in which he played the All Blacks three times.

“A little bit, I didn’t know him that well but when you’re in the game as long as we’ve been we certainly knew he was a good player,” says Hansen when asked if he knew ‘Axel.’

“The All Blacks played against him on a couple of occasions. His coaching, he’s coaching a Kiwi boy there [Francis Saili and Tyler Bleyendaal are with Munster] and they’re good mates and there’s a lot of respect for him.”

Anthony Foley DIGITAL INPHO Foley in action against the All Blacks in 2001. INPHO

While Hansen’s words brought back into focus the sadness around Foley’s death, there were scenes of sheer joy in Chicago last night as the city wildly celebrated the World Series success.

Thousands and thousands of people took to the streets and surged towards Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ home stadium, even though the final game had taken place in Cleveland.

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Honking horns and screams of joy were heard long into the morning hours.

Finally, the Cubs had lifted their curse – having failed to win a World Series since 1908. Perhaps an omen that Ireland are about to lift their own curse against the All Blacks at opportunity number 29?

I listened to Joe [Maddon], the Chicago coach saying that curses and such things aren’t what make sport, it’s actually the process of getting across the line that makes it,” said Hansen.

“So, I know that this Irish side is a good team, last time we played them they should have won and they’ve only gotten better since then.

“They’ll be disappointed by what happened at the World Cup, but I think they had a lot of injuries unfortunately through the tournament and that put them under a lot of pressure.

“They probably didn’t have the success they wanted, but they’ve continued on and beaten South Africa, had a great series about them.

“They’ll be full noise, so we’ll need to be full noise too.”

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