Pain of loss worse a month afterwards - Smith

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He told the Rugbybricks podcast that the loss hurt more now than it did in the immediate aftermath.

 

Smith (pictured) was on the bench as the game was played out and realised four years of work was at an end, and there was sadness around the fact it would be the last time a lot of the players would be in the side together.

 

"There were so many Kiwis in that grandstand and seeing how pumped England were, and you couldn't even be angry at them.

 

"They did us, they won. There was no arrogance about what they did, they won the right way, they beat us, they out-physicalled us and we couldn't fire a shot. You had to sit there and eat humble pie," he said.

 

The dressing room afterwards had been full of the disappointment. Smith said realising Kieran Read, with whom he had played so much rugby, wouldn't lift the Cup had been hard.

 

He told him he was sorry they couldn't do it for him.

 

Sport was cut-throat and the full All Blacks squad and support staff were involved. But at the same time Smith added the energy the loss had given him was substantial.

 

"Would I be this hungry for 2020 if we had won"? he said.

 

After the game and back with his family he was numb. But it hurt more a month afterwards than it did at the time, he said.

 

"At the time it was like, 'what the hell just happened?' You know what happened, you know what went wrong, you know where you mucked up. It was very similar to the Lions series draw [in 2017]," he said.

 

It was also like losing to England in 2012, one game short of a perfect year.

 

"But we got smacked. I 've only had that feeling a few times in the All Blacks jersey.

 

"It was sad, more sad around the people leaving like the coach. Steve Hansen picked me out of nowhere but made me into the man I am now. You just feel like you let them down. I felt bad for my family and friends but, actually, none of them care. They just want to know if you're all right," he said.

 

In the wake of the loss the players were given a family day ahead of returning to action on Monday, but the leadership group had to have a session to prepare the week on the Sunday.

 

It had been tough, he said. All involved had been guilty of wanting to fall on the sword and take blame for the loss, which wasn't something he enjoyed seeing.

 

Hansen told them to stop with that response and said it was a collective situation in which all were involved in the loss.

 

"It was something I didn't like hearing. It was real hard to hear. There were some of the best players in the world saying 'Oh was it my fault if I had done this or if I didn't do that' but what was cool about that was we found out after we talked about how we felt, we felt a bit better.

 

"In the review the next day Steve did it with the whole room, everyone got their one minute or two minutes about how they felt…there was a varied range of emotions," he said.

 

However, the leadership group had also tackled the response they would have to the third and fourth playoff against Wales.

 

It would be a show of what it meant to play for the All Blacks because they felt they had let the country down by not doing what they wanted to do.

 

"But here was a chance to finish well, be humble and show them what it means. We got the bronze medal, great, but we played the way All Blacks should play," he said.

 

The review process had been ruthless because they were watching the worst game they had played but it had been big picture stuff with no name calling involved, he said.

 

Smith also said that in their World Cup build-up they had done heat preparedness in which all players had to go into saunas or spas every day, starting from 15 minutes to 30 minutes in order to build up a tolerance. After 30 minutes, with no water to drink, players were quite dizzy when they finished their stints.

 

But arriving to 36 degrees heat in Japan and having hot conditions for the first two weeks it had been valuable.

 

Smith said the Bledisloe Cup loss to Australia in Perth had been a wake-up call but it had resulted in them being able to practice their knockout mindset in subsequent games, especially the return Test at Eden Park.

 

As soon as the plane landed in Auckland Smith sensed a different mood in the side and that had been reflected in the result.

 

Listen to the Rugby Bricks Podcast HERE.

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