France 12-39 New Zealand, Marseille, November 28
Henry heaps praise on clinical All Blacks
November 28, 2009
New Zealand embark on a lap of honour at Stade Velodrome following their victory over France © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry was full of praise for his side after their 39-12 demolition of France at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
The All Blacks ran in five tries in a clinical display to sweep their hosts aside and complete their second consecutive unbeaten tour of Europe. And there was further cause for celebration following the game with captain Richie McCaw named the International Rugby Board Player of the Year.
"It was a special day, really, a special day because all the players who played today played their role superbly," Henry told Reuters. "It was good to see two teams playing attacking football because there has been some pretty boring stuff over the last year or so in rugby, and it was just a great game with two teams wanting to attack and I think it's pretty special."
Henry was also delighted to see his side answer their critics at the end of a difficult year that included defeat at home to France and back-to-back losses to South Africa.
"There has been some remarkable wins over the years and that one is a special one because we have had a challenging year and we have won the last six games after being four and four at one stage during the season," he added. "I'm just delighted for the guys because they put their record straight and they can feel good about their season and enjoy the summer."
France coach Marc Lievremont admitted to his side's shortcomings and had nothing but respect for the victorious All Blacks. "Sometimes, one has to accept defeat with dignity. When the All Blacks play like that, attacking the line with complete confidence, they are unstoppable," he said.
"It's a big disappointment but don't forget all the work that has been done. I'm still very confident about this group and there is room for improvement ahead of the Six Nations tournament."
Captain Thierry Dusautoir also cut a glum figure, having been a huge presence in their Dunedin win. "We're all disappointed because we were overpowered. We don't think the All Blacks are so extraordinary but we didn't play as well as we expected."
On collecting his IRB Award, McCaw was quick to pay tribute to his team-mates. "I am very proud to be collecting this," he said. "But you can't do it on your own. I am just happy to be part of a team doing well. I am happy to do my bit, but it is a great honour. I said it before, you can't do it without a bunch of mates. It has been a trying year at times, but it is great to be part of a winning team."
Much was made of the tiredness factor for the All Blacks as they played their fifth Test in a row and 14th of the year, but McCaw said motivation wasn't an issue.
"When you know you've got one more left you can dig pretty deep. The guys were pretty keen, we'd been close in most of the games to putting a performance together. They knew it was going to be tough, but all that together made it pretty easy to get up for the game."
All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina, the most-capped current All Black with 82 tests, said McCaw's contribution remained immense.
"He's world-class, probably between him and Dan (Carter) for best in the world. It's great for them to recognise Richie like that and the guys are just delighted," Muliaina said. "He's a great leader and a great rugby player and we're stoked for him."
The All Blacks will now have to regroup for a final tour match against the Barbarians at Twickenham next Saturday, where the second-stringers will all likely get another chance.