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The post-game gesture Ireland paid to the late Sean Wainui

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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A celebrating Ireland broke off their post-game celebrations in Dublin on Saturday night to present the All Blacks with a signed jersey they would like to be given to the family of Sean Wainui, the late Maori All Blacks winger who died last month in a car crash.

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The 25-year-old Wainui played ten games for the Maori side in a career where he starred at Super Rugby level for the Chiefs, the franchise he made 44 appearances for having initially made the breakthrough with the Crusaders. 

Wainui entered the history books earlier this year when he became the first player in Super Rugby to score five tries in the same match, the winger creating the record in a June win over the Waratahs. 

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He has since tragically passed away and within minutes of Ireland beating the All Blacks 29-20 in their epic Autumn Nations Series encounter in Dublin, their skipper Johnny Sexton presented New Zealand captain Sam Whitelock with a signed No11 Ireland jersey.   

“We want to present this jersey to you for Sean Wainui,” said Sexton pitchside after he had led his team to their third win over the All Blacks in five matches. “On behalf of everyone in Ireland, we were thinking about him, we were thinking about you boys that were close to him.”

Whitelock replied: “Thank you very much, it’s a lovely gesture. We will make sure to get it to his family.” His sentiment was later echoed by Ian Foster, the All Blacks coach. “It was a special and classy gesture by Ireland. It was well-meaning and appreciated.”

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Sexton said later that Ireland had initially wanted to make the jersey presentation prior to the haka. “We would have liked to have done it before the haka and just presented it to them like they had done previously when we have lost people close to us.

“We contracted them through Greg Feek and John Plumtree who coached us and they said, ‘Look, it is still a bit raw for a lot of the players so could we do it after the game?’ We just felt it was apt. A few of the boys in Leinster and Bundee (Aki) as well knew him really well and they were cut up about it. We wanted to show a gesture, so fair play to everyone who contributed to it.” 

Wainui wasn’t the only rugby player who tragically passed away that Ireland paid tribute to on Saturday. At half-time in the match in Dublin, former Ireland and Munster back Barry Murphy played his newly released song to the capacity crowd which commemorates the memory of Anthony Foley, who passed away five years ago in Paris in October 2016.   

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