The shock result of the last weekend was Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks. The victory was well earned and complete and the record breaking All Blacks now have a record they didn’t want that being the first All Black team to lose to Ireland in 111 years of tests between the two nations.
Facing up to the Haka is one of those unique privelages in rugby. The response to this challenge is important and displays a country’s respect for the culture and tradition of this far away land of the silver fern.
I like the way Ireland get this, they understand it. The All Blacks seem to bring out the most passionate displays of rugby from the Irish . The Haka seems to strike up some sort of response deep in the Irish psyche from their own tribal and primal past.
The first time I witnessed this was during the 1995 RWC when Ireland took on the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The opening few minutes was a furious display of Irish passion and drive energised to levels that the Kiwis could not handle. Garret Halpin stormed over the line suprising everyone. The Kiwi’s as they always do hit back and easily won that game 43-19. The Irish passion once again showed itself in the second test of a 3 test series in New Zealand in 2012 once again the Kiwi’s came good and won the game 22-19. In Ireland in 2013 with just seconds to spare, you would’ve be forgiven for thinking that Ireland had done it but New Zealand found a winner and won that game 24-22.
Munster is historically the super power of the four provincial teams in Ireland. The name Foley is one that has been intertwind with Munster for a long time. Brendan Foley was part of the Munster team that famously beat the All Blacks in 1978 and his son Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley played for Munster from 1995 to 2008 captaining Munster to win the Heineken Cup in 2006. Axel won 62 caps for Ireland. Once his playing days were over he started coaching and was head coach of Munster. He died in his sleep in a Paris hotel on 16 October 2016 just shy of his 43rd birthday caused by a pulmonary oedema.
This well loved and respected Irishman was taken too soon and Irish rugby has mourned the loss. When Ireland lined up to face the Haka at Soldier Field in Chicago on 5th November 2016, the Irish players formed a figure of eight rather than a straight line to face the Haka. Axel played eighth man. This was a fitting and highly charged emotional tribute to him and the performance and result of the game that followed speaks for itself.