'We got beaten by a side who were better than us on the day' - Classy All Blacks gracious in defeat
Published 06/11/2016 | 12:38
New Zealand have insisted a hectic off-field schedule in Chicago had no impact on Saturday's 40-29 defeat to Ireland at Soldier Field.
The All Blacks surrendered their record 18-match winning streak with their first loss to Ireland, paying the price for a lacklustre opening.
Ireland raced into a 30-8 lead and though the back-to-back world champions fought back in the closing stages, Joe Schmidt's side were fully-worthy winners.
New Zealand spent a large chunk of their week satisfying major sponsor AIG's requirements - but head coach Steve Hansen and full-back Ben Smith rejected any notions that dented performance levels.
"I think it's the same for both teams, that always happens in the week that you have things to do with promotional activities and things," said full-back Smith.
"We thought we were really focused going into the game but there are going to be some key learnings to come out of it, on ways we can improve as a team.
"We're playing them again in two weeks in Dublin, so we're going to have to make some adjustments and be better next week and the week after.
"I think the credit's got to go to Ireland, they put us under a lot of pressure.
"They scored some good tries and fully deserved their win.
"We managed to come back into the game well in the second-half, but the Irish did well to keep us under pressure."
Ireland claimed their first victory over New Zealand in 111 years of trying thanks to scores from Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Robbie Henshaw.
New Zealand claimed tries from George Moala, TJ Perenara, Smith and debutant replacement lock Scott Barrett.
In November 2013 New Zealand turned a 22-7 deficit on its head to sneak away from Dublin's Aviva Stadium 24-22 winners - but there was to be no repeat in the United States.
New Zealand boss Hansen insisted plaudits must go to Ireland, rather than the All Blacks face endless inquests for their Chicago schedule.
"Look I don't think we can blame the venue, I think we've got to blame ourselves," said Hansen.
"It's easy when you win, you give yourself a pat on the back.
"But when you lose, you give yourself a wee uppercut, because there's things you've got to get better at.
"But there's a lot of things that have happened this week. And we're thinking of one our family members back home who's had a very, very tough week.
"A lot's happened there that puts rugby into perspective.
"On the afternoon we got beaten by a side who were better than us.
"We have to accept that and go away and have a look at where and how they beat us and how we're going to get better so in a fortnight's time we can contest the game."
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