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All Blacks coach Foster savours one of ‘sweetest victories’

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster said the 28-24 victory in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against an Ireland team who had been heavily tipped for victory, was one of his “sweetest victories”.

The All Blacks came into the eagerly-awaited clash at the Stade de France in what for them was the unaccustomed position of underdogs.

But the New Zealanders roared into a 13-0 lead and though Ireland hit back again and again, the three-time World Cup winners kept their noses in front and showed their pedigree to reach the semi-finals.

Foster said not only had his team emerged from a severe test, he was also proud that they had done so with one player off the pitch for much of the game.

“I’m pretty happy. This is a special day for us,” he told reporters. 

“Sometimes the sweetest victories are when your opposition plays very well and tests you to the limit.

“At the end of the day, we played a lot of that game with 14 players. And we looked in control of it and it felt good.”

Ireland, he said, “had built a team for this moment”—and it had not been enough.

All Blacks captain Sam Cane said that contrary to reports of a turbulent buildup to the game, with the outstanding wing Mark Telea dropped for breaching team protocols, “we had an awesome week’s prep”.

“There was an air of calmness on the bus,” he added.

That assured approach had helped his team repel a draining closing phase when a desperate Ireland threw everything at their opponents.

“I’m just super proud of the effort that went into the week’s preparation and then our ability to defend our line for 30-plus phases at the end. That was huge,” Cane said.

Looking ahead to the semi-final with Argentina on Friday, Foster predicted “a good Southern Hemisphere game”.

“We know Argentina well,” he said.

And if his team had been overshadowed by Ireland in the week leading up to the quarter-final, “I don’t think we’ll be under the radar next week,” he said.

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