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HomesportsWhat they said at the Rugby World Cup

What they said at the Rugby World Cup

PARIS – South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy for a record fourth title edging New Zealand 12-11 in a gripping final to bringing the curtain down on the seven week Rugby World Cup.

Off the pitch too there were some memorable quotes from coaches and players both in victory and defeat.

AFP Sport picks out some of the best of the tournament:

Winners

“It is something from the outside you don’t necessarily understand. His entire journey epitomises the South African dream, striving through the difficult things, what other people would call impossible.”

— Springbok lock Jean Kleyn on captain Siya Kolisi. South Africa-born Kleyn’s journey too was unconventional as he played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup.

“If there’s a white plastic bag that blows over the pitch, he’d probably chase that down as well!”

— Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber on World Cup final man of the match Pieter-Steph du Toit, who made an astonishing 28 tackles in the final.

“The majority of the people in our country are unemployed (32.9 percent for the first quarter of 2023, according to official figures) and some have no homes. The harder we play, the more we do well, the more we are able to open up opportunities for others, so that drives us.”

— Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, who was born into extreme poverty, on the motivation for him and his teammates.

“You walk into a restaurant, (saying) ‘Is there a table for me? Do you know who I am?’ No. So you are fooled. It goes through cycles. Everybody becomes entitled, but just don’t stay there too long,”

— Leinster-bound Jacques Nienaber prior to the semi-final on whether his Springboks had become entitled and felt they deserved a fourth Webb Ellis trophy.

“Ireland and France Rugby can still make it to the Rugby World Cup Finals. They just have to buy the tickets.”

— South Africa’s mischievous director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, rubbing salt into Ireland and France’s very open wounds after they missed out on the semi-finals.

Losing finalists

“Unfortunately it is something I will have to live with forever.”

— New Zealand captain Sam Cane on his red card in the final, becoming the first player to be sent off in the sport’s showpiece match.

“This is my last week as an All Black, my last dance. It is surreal to be honest that we are in the final, the big dance.”

— All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith on being able to retire on the back of a World Cup final. But unlike his fellow legends Dan Carter and Richie McCaw in 2015, he was unable to crown it with victory.

So near yet so far

“I used to play rugby, I don’t like losing, never, but it’s not a sad moment, but a moment where I’m actually proud of my team.”

— Argentina’s engaging head coach Michael Cheika after the Pumas had taken a 44-6 shellacking from the All Blacks in their semi-final.

“Yesterday morning (Saturday) I was reading a piece about adversity: in each adversity you find that seed of belief, you have got to grow it.”

— England head coach Steve Borthwick on moving on from the last gasp 16-15 loss to the Springboks in the semi-finals — they went on to beat the Pumas in the third place play-off.

No quarter given

“I was thinking of putting a jumper on today.”

— Irish prop Tadhg Furlong with one of his trademark poker-faced quips in comparing the 37 degrees (99 degrees Fahrenheit) they played in in Bordeaux to the 32 degrees in Nantes a week later.

“You’re still the best Dad.”

— Luca Sexton to his father, Irish legend Johnny, as they walked round the Stade de France after the epic 28-24 quarter-final defeat to New Zealand which ended the 38-year-old’s career.

“How can you be prouder to be Irish when you see what’s happened over the last six weeks, really?”

— Johnny Sexton after the “gutting” defeat, preferring to pay homage to the tens of thousands of fans that followed the team and also to his teammates for a memorable final campaign.

“Hopefully people will remember me for being passionate and caring about every moment. I am going to miss it.”

— Wales’s Dan Biggar, who like fellow fly-half Sexton, saw his stellar Test career end in quarter-final disappointment at the hands of Argentina.

“It is the competition of a lifetime, a World Cup in France, we will not get to play again and it is a pity to finish like that.”

— French backrow forward Francois Cros movingly describes the despair of the hosts going out to the Springboks in the quarter-finals. At 29 it is unlikely he will make it to the 2027 edition in Australia.

“I don’t want to be the bitter person who complains about the referee because I lost the game. There are clearly things that should have been whistled. I don’t think the refereeing was at the level of what was at stake today.”

— Devastated France captain Antoine Dupont, who preferred to blame New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe than French failings in the quarter-final.

“We went back to a village environment without the comforts of staying in a five-star hotel, and things weren’t always perfect but it was about us reconnecting to who we are.”

— Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui on bringing all the players back to the island as part of the prep for the tournament. It worked as they reached the quarter-finals although Raiwalui upped and left afterwards.

Highs and lows of first-round exit

“Obviously I can die tomorrow! I retire after this World Cup, to finish like that it is unbelievable for me.”

— Portugal’s veteran hooker Mike Tadjer after a sensational 24-23 win over Fiji in their final pool match rounded off an excellent tournament for the minnows who also drew with Georgia.

“I think I’ve left the Australian team in a great position to go on to 2027. I didn’t come back to Australia to have a holiday — to sit down at Coogee Beach and have some fish and chips.”

— Australia head coach Eddie Jones insisting initially he would stay — and that the youthful squad which suffered the indignation of becoming the first Wallabies side to exit in the first round will blossom for their hosting of the 2027 edition.

“Come December, I’ll start to have a look and see whether I’d like to coach another international team, I’d like to coach one more team. One more cycle.”

— The pugnacious Jones a few weeks later edging towards the exit door. He has now left the Wallabies, according to reports.

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