All Blacks in Their Own Words: A Riveting Look at the Triumphs and Trials of 2023

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The final is the centrepiece, with the participants discussing captain and flanker Sam Cane's red card, the denial of halfback Aaron Smith's try, and goal-kicking misses.

Cane said he had ensured he savoured leading the team onto the field while also enjoying his family's attendance.

But when his yellow card happened, Jesse Kriel made a complete U-turn when cleaning an untidy long lineout throw and ran back towards Cane.

"I was caught off-guard a bit; it was quite an upright tackle, and then, sure enough, they stopped play and - yellow card.

"Then the sideline referee came over and said, 'It's going to be upgraded to a red.'

"Even now, just saying those words, I feel...the tension and I suppose that sense of shock I encountered in that moment, hits me again now."

He said, sitting in the chair and looking across to see his parents and teammates' parents, that he felt overwhelmed by the feeling of letting his teammates down when they needed him most.

Assistant manager Gilbert Enoka described the All Blacks reaching the final as 'dancing on the precipice of greatness.'

"This group knew what would define them was what happened at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. World Cups are all unique; prior form means nothing; it's do-or-die, a pinnacle event for most athletes.

"You know you are entering an arena that is special."

It provided an opportunity for greatness in the aeons of time.

With the side reduced to 14, Enoka said there had been times at halftime in games when he had thoughts but didn't say anything. In Paris, he had a thought and felt he didn't want to look back and regret not saying what he wanted.

"All you need is one person to say one thing and all of a sudden it gives you the power to believe."

That 'thing' was to say, "This team lost their captain, you're down to 14 men for most of the World Cup final. What a story this would be if won."

Jordie Barrett said Enoka's words almost made him want to stand up and run out of the tunnel to get on with it.

Richie Mo'unga said the team had been through thick and thin, so why couldn't they be the team that could do it under those circumstances?

Enoka felt at halftime that they were standing on the precipice of a moment that could mark the most significant chapter in All Blacks' history.

Aaron Smith said his ill father, who died in April 2023, had told him before he got really ill to go to France and make him proud.

"He told me it because it was like he knew he wasn't going to be there."

It became his goal to go to France and do his best, and he felt he did that.

"I wanted to remember this moment. It was the last time I was in the All Black jersey."

Into the second half, Smith said he thought he had his glory moment, scoring a try in a final after supporting a break by Mo'unga that the TMO called back to an earlier infringement.

When Beauden Barrett scored after a break by wing Mark Tele'a, Mo'unga's conversion attempt missed.

While it was a pressure moment, he felt it was an honour to be in that position. But missing still haunts him.

"It could have changed the game."

Watch All Blacks in their own Words season two on NZR+ or on the All Blacks youtube channel.


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