Wales v New Zealand
Henry proud of sense of fair play
November 21, 2008
(L to R) Graham Henry head coach, Wayne Smith back line coach, Richie McCaw captain, and Steve Hansen forwards coach and of the All Blacks on the pitch during a New Zealand All Black Captain's Run at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, England on November 21, 2008.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry, his assitants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen and captain Richie McCaw inspect the Millennium Stadium pitch ahead of their clash with Wales © Getty Images

Graham Henry has spoken of his pride at being rewarded for staying tight-lipped in the aftermath of New Zealand's shock rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to France at the Millennium Stadium.

As he sat in the press conference room he occupied after the All Blacks devastating 18-20 loss, Henry today said at least something positive had come from the experience. Earlier this week he was awarded a top international fair play award for his conduct after the All Blacks' controversial defeat -- a match inextricably linked with the officiating of referee Wayne Barnes.

The Englishman incurred the wrath of a nation when missing a forward pass in the lead-up to France's match-clinching try, sinbinning Luke McAlister and failing to award a penalty to the All Blacks throughtout the second half. All Blacks management, led by Henry, would not be publicly critical Barnes, while the head coach also went into the dressing room to congratulate the victorious French.

The International Committee for Fair Play listed Henry as one of just four trophy winners from 23 awards made for last year. "I felt very honoured really, and very humbled to when I saw the list of the people that had won it before," Henry said on the eve of the All Blacks test against Wales tomorrow.

With captain Richie McCaw sitting next to him, Henry said: "The motivation at the time was to protect these fellas, who I have a huge regard for. I get quite emotional when I speak about it. If we'd made excuses or grizzled about various things, I think that would have been the worst thing we could have done. We had to take it on the chin and get on with it.

"It would have been bad for the players, the team as a whole, bad for rugby in our country and bad for the country."

The visit to the French dressing, meanwhile, was nothing out of the ordinary. "It's a tradition in rugby you should keep -- so when you do get beaten you go and congratulate the opposition," he said. "The French guys were very good -- they showed a bit of respect, they shut up and listened. They were very good the way they handled it -- they made me feel better. They were pretty supportive at the time."

CIFP general secretary Jean Durry said Henry had behaved "with great dignity and an exemplary sense of fair play" after the narrow defeat.

"For a rugby country such as New Zealand, one can only imagine how painful this defeat must have been."

The CIFP is an international non-governmental organisation recognised by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. Henry is the second New Zealander to be honoured by the CIFP by receiving the Pierre de Coubertin trophy.

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga received the same award in 2004 for his sportsmanship during a rugby test in Hamilton when he stopped playing to check on Welsh player Colin Charvis, who had been knocked unconscious in a tackle by Jerry Collins and was in danger of swallowing his tongue.


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