YOKOHAMA, 27 Oct – Steve Hansen insists New Zealand’s semi-final defeat will fuel a new hunger in the All Blacks.
There was no attempt in the Kiwi camp to disguise the emphatic nature of England’s 19-7 dethronement of the champions in Yokohama, with many observers viewing the defeat as the most comprehensive the team had suffered in the 32-year history of the Rugby World Cup.
But, as his disconsolate players try to raise themselves for the bronze final in Tokyo on Friday, Hansen, still keen to bow out from his job as the country's most successful coach with one last win, could see reasons to be positive amid the gloom.
"I'm extremely proud of how this All Blacks team have been and they've been very, very good for a long time, but (against England) we just weren't good enough. And that's sport," said Hansen.
"They are a good team. There's no shame in getting beaten by them. There's a lot of hurt, but that hurt, or adversity if you want to call it that, will feed a lot more All Blacks teams in the future."
Adversity, reckoned Hansen, had previously inspired New Zealand in an unprecedented era of RWC domination, after the shock defeat by France in the 2007 quarter-finals. It led to an 18-match winning run that delivered two titles before coming to a shuddering halt in the International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday night.
Such a defeat, inevitably, will prompt a major inquest in a rugby-besotted nation, whose misery seemed to be summed up by the publication of a completely black front page of the New Zealand Herald on Sunday.
Jordie Barrett's expression, pictured top, as he is consoled by Owen Farrell shows that for New Zealand's players it was a rare and chastening experience. But they offered no excuses for the defeat.
"It's pretty bleak," said hooker Codie Taylor, talking about the atmosphere in the dressing-room afterwards. "It just hurts for the people that probably won’t pull the jersey on again past next week. Just gutted that we couldn’t get the job done for those sorts of men."
One of those, of course, will be captain Kieran Read, whose bloodied right eye and the memory of a thunderous Sam Underhill tackle were the only mementos of his 126th All Blacks match.
"You could see it on his face, it really hurts. He’s a great captain and he’s a great leader," said Taylor. "He puts out 80 minutes every week and he never takes a backwards step.
"He's either leading or limping every time he comes off the field and that’s all you can ask of a captain. I'm just really proud that I got the opportunity to play with him."
Now, there is just one final chance.