The agony of perfection for 2013 All Blacks

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2013

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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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