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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2007, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Henry proud of beaten New Zealand
Graham Henry (left) and Richie McCaw (right)
It just didn't happen for us

All Blacks coach Graham Henry, pictured with captain Richie McCaw
New Zealand coach Graham Henry insisted his players could hold their heads up high despite slumping to their worst-ever World Cup campaign.

The All Blacks let France rally from 13-0 down to record a breathtaking 20-18 quarter-final win and eliminate the odds-on tournament favourites.

"It's very disappointing for the guys - they've given their all over the last four years," said Henry.

"I'm very proud of them, but it just didn't happen for us."

The defeat has condemned Henry's much-hyped side to go down in history as the worst-performing New Zealand side since the World Cup started in 1987.

They won that tournament and reached at least the semi-finals in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.

The All Blacks, who have been number one in the world rankings since May 2004, now face another four years of anguish after France's astonishing win at the Millennium Stadium.

"They're a great bunch of young athletes and they've got a lot of pride," added Henry.


"We just didn't finish up with enough points, I'm afraid.

"We didn't get the rub of the green much, but the French played particularly well. I thought they defended superbly and we had a couple of chances which we didn't take, so it's obviously disappointing."

The All Blacks are likely to come in for ferocious criticism from the unforgiving media in a rugby union-obsessed country, but Henry said that the coaches and players had done everything in their power.

"I don't think there was anything else we could have done leading up to the game," said Henry.

We lost our composure but I thought we could get it back

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw

"We had a very good week and trained well but it just didn't happen for us."

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw was left shell-shocked by the defeat.

"I'm lost for words," he said. "With France, we always knew they could come back in the second half. We lost our composure but I thought we could get it back.

"I can't explain it. We believed we had what it takes. In the first half they forced us to play aerial ping-pong - we didn't want to play like that.

"We couldn't get through. It's a day you try to forget."

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