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All Blacks prepare to farewell ‘special’ legends after World Cup final

By Finn Morton
Sam Whitelock is congratulated by Aaron Smith of the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between New Zealand and Italy at Parc Olympique on September 29, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

For the likes of Aaron Smith, Dane Coles and Sam Whitelock, this is it. There is no tomorrow in the black jersey for these rugby icons after New Zealand’s clash with South Africa in the World Cup final.

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Some genuine legends are looking to end their Test careers on top of the world in Saturday night’s decider at Stade de France. It’ll either be a fairytale finish or their time as All Blacks will end heartbreak.

The All Blacks secured their spot in the sport’s biggest Test with a commanding 44-6 win over Los Pumas in Saint-Denis last week. New Zealand were dominant, but the job is not done yet.

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With Rugby World Cup glory potentially just 80 minutes away, the All Blacks have an opportunity to etch their names into history by becoming the first team to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup four times.

While the All Blacks are clearly not lacking in motivation, assistant coach Jason Ryan revealed the “special part of our week” that is driving this team.

“We’ve talked about farewells. We’ve talked this week about being the best that we can,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday.

“We had quite a nice night last night as a team and some of our experienced leaders spoke about what it’s been to be an All Black and their previous experiences in World Cups, as well as some of the younger boys.

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“That’s been a special part of our week and it was nice last night listening to some of those guys. Anyone that has played 100 plus Tests, you’ve got some stories haven’t you.”

The All Blacks’ rivalry with the world champion Springboks doesn’t need an introduction. The ferocious nature of this matchup speaks for itself.

It’s quite possibly the greatest international rivalry in the sport. “I just don’t think that there’s that kind of rivalry between two teams that is so intense for 80 minutes and yet so connected afterwards,” former South Africa skipper John Smit said on NZR+.

The Springboks are the defending World Cup winners, and they’re looking to become just the second team to go back-to-back – repeating the feat first achieved by the All Blacks in 2015.

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But putting the history of yesteryear aside, this year alone has been a rollercoaster. The All Blacks were clinical in a 35-20 win during The Rugby Championship in Auckland, but the Boks had the last laugh as they handed their rivals a record 35-7 defeat in London two months ago.

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“The history is a big part of it. You build that up probably more towards the end of the week. We’ve got to make sure we get our game right first and foremost. We believe we have got a clear plan, then as we get closer to the game, the old mental side of the weeks kicks in,” Ryan added.

“We talked a bit about legacy last week. But it’s no secret it’s been a massive tradition. It’s awesome. You love going to South Africa, being part of the All Blacks and getting into some braai’s (BBQs).

“It’s just a special place to tour and they bring a special part of their game that makes it just a great rivalry. To be doing it in a World Cup final, that’s when you want to be playing, that’s when you want to be coaching. All you want to do is set yourself up for a gold medal.”

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35 Comments
R
Reuben 231 days ago

Are the Irish fans still whinging …. well thought they were better that

T
Turlough 233 days ago

By walking to the Irish Supporters and mocking them during the QTR, Rioko Ioane appears to have been in breach of Regulation 18.4(b) (Reg 18 Misconduct and Code of Conduct).
Sanctions for an individual range from caution to suspensions to expulsion from a tournament.

With the amount of abuse levelled towards the Irish from NZ media and Team NZ since Ireland’s victory in the NZ test series, and before and after the QTR - Irish Rugby should have pulled the trigger on this. The behaviour clearly has no place in rugby’s ethos.

(If NZ accused them if being bad losers just laugh in their face and say “Shit McCaw”. They will get it.)
Reg 18 ensures preserving discipline, control, honesty and mutual respect which are fundamental to the integrity of the Game are preserved.
18.4           (b)     acting in an abusive, insulting, intimidating or offensive manner towards referees, assistant referees, Citing Commissioners, members of Disciplinary Tribunals or other officials or any person associated with the Host Union, the Rugby Body or the Unions participating in the Match or spectators;
Acting in an abusive, insulting, intimidating or offensive manner towards spectators which is exactly what he did twice.

T
Turlough 233 days ago

Perhaps New Zealand should reflect on the way they deliberately chose to humiliate retiring Irish legends Jonny Sexton and Peter O’Mahoney after the final whistle in the Quarter Final.
The NZ manager Foster again launched a cowardly attack on Sexton in a press conference later to deflect from one of his players mocking the Irish crowd. The only retirees and supporters deserving of respect are New Zealanders apparently.

(Spoiler Alert) You may be interested to note that I can leak a preview of Ireland’s next challenge to the Haka:

The Irish captain will hold an outboard boat engine to counteract the wooden paddle thing. The first squeek out of a NZ mouth and the fucking engine gets turned on!!!

EDIT: In a reply to this post a NZer claimed Sexton had ‘picked’ his preferred final opponent in an interview pre QTR. Didn’t happen.

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