All Blacks great reveals that infamous sledge inspired Sam Cane’s masterclass against Ireland

David Skippers
Sam Cane and Peter O'Mahony image.jpg

Former All Blacks skipper Sam Cane and Ireland back-row Peter O'Mahony.

Sam Cane’s outstanding performance for the All Blacks in their 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Ireland was motivated by a sledge he received from Peter O’Mahony during the countries’ three-Test series in New Zealand in 2022.

That was the word from legendary All Blacks second-row Brodie Retallick, who was in the thick of the action during his team’s win at the global showpiece last year and when O’Mahony verbally abused Cane in the third and final Test in Wellington two years ago.

O’Mahony was spotted on camera telling All Blacks captain Cane that he was ‘just a s—t Richie McCaw’ during the third and deciding Test in Wellington, which Ireland won 32-22 and in doing so they clinched their first-ever series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.

When the sides met again during that play-off clash at the Stade de France, Cane led from the front, making a match-high 21 tackles as the All Blacks sealed a deserved 28-24 triumph.

O’Mahony’s words used as motivation by Cane

And Retallick feels those words from O’Mahony motivated Cane to deliver the performance which he did on the day in Paris.

“You can maybe thank Peter for that,” Retallick said on the Walk the Talk with Jim Hamilton. “He still remembered what he said, he hadn’t forgotten. He said: ‘You’re a s–t Richie McCaw’, and I was standing right there with him.

“You get that natural instinct. The fear of being beaten, the fear of being knocked out and it just adds that little bit extra to your preparation. No one in the competitive world wants to be the underdog but we probably were.”

Retallick, who retired from international rugby after the All Blacks suffered a narrow loss to the Springboks in the World Cup final, said he has no problem with banter or verbal abuse on the field.

“I don’t mind it. When I first started in Super Rugby, it’s maybe not so much a part of the game anymore, but it was there and it was what I learnt,” added the 33-year-old who is currently plying his trade with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers in Japan’s Rugby League One competition.

“The mental side of the game, if you’re on top of them or someone’s having a bad day, you let them know about it.”

After O’Mahony’s sledge to Cane in 2022, several All Blacks players were quick to get their revenge on the Ireland back-row by issuing some choice words of their own after their World Cup quarter-final win and Retallick was at the forefront of those chirps by telling his opponent: “Oi, Peter! Four more years, you f—wit.”

Retallick admitted that he made that comment after remembering what O’Mahony told Cane in Wellington the previous year.

“It just came to me that moment in Wellington where he was obviously spraying Sam and giving it to us when we had lost and they won,” he revealed.

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“Good on them, I think it’s part of the game and fair play. I could sense it was my opportunity to let him know back.

“After the quarter-final, he was just in front of me, and I said it. I’ve talked to Peter a few times, had a beer with him and think it’s all part of the game. Hopefully he sees that it was left out there.

“I haven’t talked to him since… but that’s pretty much it.”

Retallick admitted that the encounter in Paris was one of the most intense matches he has been involved in and the All Blacks had to dig deep to secure the victory.

“You have those weeks in Test rugby when you know the game is going to be a big one and it’s going to be physical,” he said.

“The intensity was through the roof. The French crowd – well probably mostly Irish supporters – it was so loud in the stadium.

“It was tit for tat for a while there until Richie (Mo’unga) made that break off the back of a lineout and then it just like the game came alive.

‘A bit of a blur’

“It’s almost a little bit of a blur. Defending for so long at the end there until Sam got the turnover.

“The set-piece battle, the tries, the line breaks, the physicality, it had everything a good rugby match is all about.”

Ireland came into the Rugby World Cup as the top ranked team in World Rugby’s official rankings but there was plenty of pressure on Andy Farrell’s troops to advance past the quarter-finals – a feat which they have not achieved yet.

“I wouldn’t say we were calling ourselves the underdogs, we talked about all the pressure with them. There’s the quarter-finals (they’ve lost), they’ve beaten us down in Wellington, they’ve beaten us the last two games we’ve played them,” said Retallick.

“I guess we had that little bit of a chip on our shoulder from Wellington and what better way to end it in a quarter-final.”

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