Andy Farrell says he has never been more proud to be part of a team after his Ireland side claimed a historic series victory over New Zealand.
After losing the opening Test, Ireland roared back to win in Dunedin and Wellington, having never previously beaten the All Blacks on Kiwi soil.
“Pleased? I don’t think that’s the word,” Farrell reflected.
“What’s the biggest thing that you can say about a group of people? I don’t think there is a word.”
Their first series triumph in New Zealand meant Ireland also replaced France as the new number one team in world rugby.
Farrell added: “They’ve grabbed hold of it hugely. I talked yesterday about the leadership group, how they’ve grown and developed and we’ve coached this team together. That’s the truth.
“Some of the stuff that they’ve done out there today, we’ve done it together so when you look at it like that I suppose it’s the most proud that I’ve been as part of a group, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Ireland enjoyed complete domination in the first half at Sky Stadium, scoring three tries to none, to take a deserved 22-3 lead into the interval.
Having been a distant second, the All Blacks eventually came to the party with a rousing fightback in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, scoring three tries of their own to reduce the deficit to three points.
However, Ireland rallied with Rob Herring scoring the final try of the match to take the wind out of the home side’s sails.
“Our best 40 minutes of the campaign was in the first half and that says a lot about how they are as a team and where they’re going and the belief that they’ve got,” Farrell said.
“This is the hardest thing you can do in rugby by a country mile, especially when you take it down to the last game – and we know from history that the All Blacks are going to come out firing.
“The most pleasing thing for me was the composure we showed when they came back at us, because they always do. We never got ahead of ourselves when we were in front and we never panicked when they started to come back.”
Ireland finished their tour with three wins from five matches, having shared a 1-1 mini-series draw with the Maori All Blacks.
They lost their first two matches in the space of four days, which gave fuel to the thought that the Irish players were undercooked at the end of a long northern hemisphere season in which none of the four provinces collected any silverware.
“Some of these lads are coming off the back of a loss in a quarter-final, semi-final, final,” Farrell added.
“We had three days of camp before we left for these shores and it was back together like that.
“They’re a special group and they deserve everything they get.”