IT seems the pressure won’t lift off Graham Henry’s shoulders until the All Blacks win every test match thisseason. Next up are England over two weekends in Auckland and Christchurch, to be followed by the Tri Nations and ending in November with a Grand Slam tour of the northern hemisphere.
Henry described Saturday’s victory as an important win for his new-look side over what he said was a strong and committed Ireland XV. He praised his team’s efforts, particularly those of the forwards, in dreadful playing conditions at the Westpac Stadium.
“Was I under personal pressure, was I?” asked Henry when the questioninevitably came his way at the post-match media conference.
“I’m just proud of the guys, the way they played. They were difficult conditions to play in — the game became a lottery. Our players don’t play in those conditions very often, probably once a year. I’m proud of the way they hung in and did the job.
“They will take a lot of confidence out of that, for the future it is a good grounding for them. They put a lot of heat on the Irish on the scrum andlineout, so the set piece was good and that’s a real positive thing. The front row, particularly the two props, didn’t have too many Test matches.
“I thought Jerome Kaino played well at eight. He’s got a real physical presence, does well in the line-outs as well. So for the forwards I thought it was a good work out. The backs it was a challenge of survival of conditions. You always fear you might lose. The boys hung in there and showed character and they dominated up front.”
Given the horrendous conditions in which the teams played, the former Wales and Lions boss suggested the IRB might revisit the summer tour schedules for both hemispheres.
“It makes you wonder why we don’t play in the northern hemisphere now and the southern hemisphere in November. Maybe we could get that right in the future.”
Dan Carter, who made the decisive break that led to Ma’a Nonu’s match-winning try, was pleased to be part of a side that grinds out a win — something that was missing from their repertoire in Cardiff last October.
Admitting that their first Test match of the season wasn’t the best spectacle given the arctic conditions, the Toulon-bound Carter never thought the All Blacks were going to lose.
“At half-time I put a few thermals on underneath. It was tough conditions to play in, the same for both sides, and I guess it wasn’t the best spectacle of a game but in those conditions we were pretty relieved to come away with a win.
“It was just a matter of gritting our teeth and really grinding out a win, and I thought we did that well. I never thought we were going to win comfortably, even with five to go, with the Irish on top we really had to step up and defend well, because they’re capable of winning the game, but the self-belief within the young side, and the new side that we have, is good.”
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