Ireland's history-making rugby team paid a poignant tribute to their former captain, who died suddenly last month

When Ireland’s players stood in a figure 8 to face the All Blacks haka, they did so in tribute to a former national captain, Anthony Foley.

In the end their ultimate tribute to him was to upset the All Blacks, beating them 40-29 at Soldier Field in Chicago – giving them a win against New Zealand for the first time since they started trying, 111 years ago.

Foley died suddenly last month, aged 42. He won 63 caps for Ireland in his playing days and was later an inspirational coach for Munster. He died just on October 16, just before their Champions Cup clash with Racing 92.

His face appeared on the big screen at the Soldier Field, before the players stood in a figure 8 formation – in recognition of his usual position in the forwards.

“I think it was something that we just talked about through the management to the players,” said captain Rory Best.

“It just felt like the right thing to do and it was our way, as an Irish national team, just to show a mark of respect to Axel (Foley) and his family.”

Leading up to the game, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had also paid tribute to Foley. “We haven’t had the opportunity and we have the Irish people here, we’d like to convey a message of sympathy and best wishes to the Foley family on the death of Anthony,” he said.

“It was a tragedy and one that was felt right throughout the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

This article originally appeared at stuff.co.nz. Follow stuff.co.nz on Facebook or Twitter.

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