The agony of perfection for 2013 All Blacks

23:42, Nov 25 2013
All Blacks v Ireland
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates during the Ireland versus All Blacks game in Dublin.
All Blacks v Ireland
Irish eyes are smiling as Ireland are awarded a try against the All Blacks.
All Blacks v Ireland
Ben Smith puts in the tackle during this morning's test against Ireland in Dublin.
All Blacks v Ireland
Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll plays probably his final test against the All Blacks.
All Blacks v Ireland
Julian Savea gets the All Blacks on the board after a shocking start to the test match in Dublin.
All Blacks v Ireland
Paul O'Connell fights for the ball during today's epic test against Ireland in Dublin.
All Blacks v Ireland
Richie McCaw looks less than happy after his side's terrible start to the test in Dublin this morning.
All Blacks
Irish eyes certainly weren't smiling after the devastating last-second win for the All Blacks.
All Blacks
The dressing room celebration is under way after the remarkable last-second victory for the All Blacks in Dublin.
All Blacks
Coach Steve Hansen and skipper Richie McCaw share a moment after becoming the first team in professional rugby to celebrate a perfect season.
All Blacks
Aaron Cruden's first attempt at the conversion missed, but he was allowed to retake it after the Irish team charged early.
All Blacks
Aaron Cruden is mobbed after landing the sideline conversion to give the All Blacks an unlikely victory in Dublin.
All Blacks
Replacement Ryan Crotty goes over for the try that denied the Irish an historic victory in Dublin this morning.
All Blacks
The All Blacks celebrate as Aaron Cruden's conversion goes right down the middle.

If is perfection, how come it feels so painful? The All Blacks of 2013 are unbeaten, unbowed and now truly undisputed as the best rugby team in the professional era. 

But they so nearly fell at the last hurdle, against an Irish team that has never beaten the All Blacks despite 108 years of trying. 

Bloodied captain Richie McCaw knew that his side hadn't played beautiful rugby in the Irish capital of Dublin as they clawed their way back from 19-0 down to win 24-22 with a last-minute try and conversion. 

However, coach Steve Hansen, when asked about the quality of the performance, simply said that he didn't really care. 

It was a win, in fact a tour, that encompassed all of the things New Zealand rugby and its fans hold dearest: work hard, play to the whistle, believe in yourself, believe in your team-mates and, as McCaw said, "never, ever, give up". 

Ryan Crotty didn't; Dane Coles didn't; and Aaron Cruden certainly didn't. The caption under this year's team photo will read: Played 14, Won 14 - the only side to win every match since the game turned professional in 1996. 

The class of 1997 went close, the 2005 vintage did too. Graham Henry's squad won the ultimate prize in 2011. None of them won every match, though. None of them got this close to perfect.

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