Following the historic Test series win over New Zealand, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and captain Jonathan Sexton gave their reaction during the post-match press conference in Wellington.
Replacement Rob Herring’s 64th-minute try from a maul proved to be the match winner, as Farrell’s men finished off their summer tour with another pulsating performance.
Josh van der Flier, Hugo Keenan and Robbie Henshaw all touched down during a clinical first half from Ireland, with Sexton adding 12 points from the tee for an eventual 32-22 victory.
On a night that the Leinster star passed the 1000-point mark for his country, he said: “I’m sure there’s lots of smiling faces across the country. It’s something that’s not lost on us. We speak about it all the time.
“Primarily family at home, but also the people of Ireland that we represent. I don’t think they could be much prouder. Even if we lost the game today, the effort to turn up…
“Because sometimes the last Test, and I’ve been in tours before where it’s very easy to drift – drift off into your holiday or drift off to somewhere else. But the boys stayed on it this week.
“We got the balance right between rest and recovery and making sure that we were fresh. That’s credit to ‘Faz’ and the management, they nailed it. The boys just basically did exactly what they asked of us.”
The 2021/22 campaign has certainly been one to remember for Ireland, from an unbeaten November run through to the Triple Crown and the barnstorming finish to the summer tour, which produced three straight wins and historic series success in Aotearoa.
Farrell’s charges will be back in action next November, hosting World champions South Africa, Fiji and Australia in three mouth-watering Autumn Nations Series matches.
At that stage the Rugby World Cup will be just ten months’ away, and Farrell acknowledged that putting together historic victories on New Zealand soil is an important building block as the squad look to peak at France 2023.
“That’s the biggest thing, the learnings that we get from it as a group of seventy people – forty players and thirty staff,” he said of the tour experience.
To have done what we’ve done and to make it so hectic and so difficult, there’s so many lessons to be learned and that takes a lot of reflecting over the summer, and used in the right way is a powerful thing for us going forward.
“The players have grabbed hold of it, hugely. I talked yesterday about the leadership group and the way that they’ve grown and developed. We’ve coached this team together and that’s the truth.
“Some of the stuff that they’ve done out there today, we’ve done it together. When you look at it like that, I suppose it’s the most proud that I’ve ever been of being part of a group, without a shadow of a doubt.”