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Ireland pay tribute to Anthony Foley

Press Association logoPress Association 6/11/2016

Ireland have hailed their historic maiden victory over the All Blacks as a triumph not just 111 years in the making - but also a tribute to the late Anthony Foley.

Ireland thumped the back-to-back world champions - who were on a record 18-match winning streak - 40-29 at Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday, to claim their first success over New Zealand at the 28th attempt.

Captain Rory Best paid tribute to all the Ireland skippers before him who had thrown everything at beating New Zealand to no avail.

But both the Ulster hooker and coach Joe Schmidt took the time to admit Ireland's win was inspired by Munster coach and former Ireland Test captain Foley, who died aged 42 last month.

The Munster players formed a figure eight when facing New Zealand's Haka before kick-off, in tribute to Foley's playing number, and promptly channelled the indefatigable former Ireland captain.

"I think it was something that we just talked about through the management to the players," said Best of the touching tribute to Foley.

"It just felt like the right thing to do and it was our way, as an Irish national team, just to show a mark of respect to Axel (Foley) and his family."

Foley won 63 caps for Ireland as a barnstorming but also tactically shrewd No.8. He also helped mastermind Munster's rise to the top of the European tree, as the Thomond Park province claimed two Heineken Cup titles.

Foley died on October 16, before Munster's Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 in Paris.

Ireland's class of 2016 assured their place in the history books, with Best aware of his personal accolades as captain - but more concerned with honouring the late Foley.

"It was just an emotionally charged day for us. Ultimately, we did a lot of our work earlier in the week so we could draw on a bit of that emotion," said Best.

"You've got to take a moment every time you make history.

"It's a massive mark of the respect to the All Blacks that beating them means so much to us because they are such a quality side and they've shown it."

While hailing the tributes to Foley, Schmidt admitted Ireland must quickly refocus - with New Zealand to face again in Dublin on November 19.

"I really thought the players did themselves proud, but to be fair they did Axel proud and his family, and they did their country proud," said Schmidt.

"I actually said something inadvertently during the week like 'If you win here I don't really care too much about what you do for the rest of the series'. So I've put my foot in it there!

"There's an alcohol ban for the players on the flight home, but that will probably be lifted as soon as the boys sit down."

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