Josh van der Flier claims Ireland’s refusal to be bullied by New Zealand – including facing up to the Haka – set the tone for their historic victory in Dublin.
Ireland recorded their first-ever win over the All Blacks on home soil with a 16-9 triumph at the Aviva Stadium, which started with them linking arms and taking one solitary step forward as New Zealand performed their famous ceremonial dance.
The performance that followed also saw Joe Schmidt’s men refuse to be cowed as resilient, disciplined defence and a moment of magic from Six Nations record-breaker Jacob Stockdale for the only try of the game proved to be enough.
And back-rower Van der Flier insists the symbolism of their pre-match move was vital in setting the Grand Slam champions on their way to just a second victory over New Zealand in 113 years of trying.
“I think it just represented the fact we weren’t going to take a backward step the whole game,” he said.
“That’s what [captain] Rory Best said to us – we wanted to go after them, not step away, not accept being bullied by them.
“That was part of it and then I suppose it’s a pretty special moment as a team, all being together and watching something as historic as the Haka, so, it’s quite cool.
“You watch any game New Zealand play; they are incredibly physical, so we knew we had to come out and go after them.
“We knew we couldn’t sit back. We went out to go after them and really put pressure on them.”
An incredible feeling
Ireland were the first northern hemisphere Test nation to keep the All Blacks tryless since France in 1995 – restricting them to two penalties and a drop goal.
And man-of-the-moment Stockdale – who chipped over the top of the defence, collected the bouncing ball and powered over the whitewash for his try – saluted the partisan Aviva Stadium crowd for their support, even if they made Ireland’s late defensive stand slightly trickier.
“It’s pretty special and an incredible feeling,” said Stockdale. “I honestly can’t put into words how fantastic it feels – it’s really great.
“The crowd were actually doing us a disservice by being so loud because I couldn’t make any defensive calls in the final few minutes because no-one could hear me! It made defence a bit tougher.
“But the atmosphere was incredible – everything we did, the crowd got behind us and that lifts you as a player. It makes you want to put in that extra step.”
A lump in the throat
Centre Garry Ringrose was also quick to hail the impact of the Irish crowd and claims that seeing the supporters lined up outside the stadium pre-match to welcome the team provided further motivation.
“It’s brilliant to get the victory,” explained Ringrose. “It’s always nice to win here in front of the people who have paid to come and support us and they were the difference.
“These are the days you want to be a part of and thankfully, we managed to fall on the right side of the result.
“You get that lump in your throat as you’re coming into the ground and you see everyone lined up outside the stadium. The support they showed is phenomenal – we’re all very grateful.”