After the All Blacks beat Ireland in an instant classic Rugby World Cup quarter-final, retiring Irish captain Johnny Sexton was seen mouthing off to NZ centre Rieko Ioane. Until now, the world has not known WTF it was about.
According to the Irish Times, Rieko taunted the Irish faithful in the stands. Photos have emerged of the centre putting his hand to his ear and giving the green jerseyed fans a ‘shush’.
“Ioane, in a classless gesture, put his finger to his lips while looking at the Irish crowd, and then felt compelled to bid farewell to Sexton," the publication wrote.
Sexton would have taken offence to this and ran his famous mouth at Rieko.
Rugby Onslaught reports that Rieko also told the Irish first five to “enjoy retirement and don’t miss your flight home”. That’s some good smack-talking and I want to believe it, but they don’t provide any evidence that the NZ #13 actually said that.
In a TikTok of the two shaking hands, it doesn’t look like Rieko says anything more than a “good game” with a head nod.
Back to the Irish Times report: Classless? It’s just heat-of-the-moment stuff buddy. The Irish fans drowned out the haka by singing before the game, as they’re allowed to. I’m sure they would’ve been talking smack and chanting during the game, as they’re allowed to.
Rieko is also allowed to give it back. That’s sports, baby. High-level athletes work extremely hard and hear all the noise - good and bad - spoken about them.
So, when they achieve their goal, especially as underdogs like the ABs were, their emotions are high and celebrations can be extreme. But with winning comes the right to strut your stuff.
Last year, during an Irish win over NZ in Pōneke (Wellington), Irish flanker Peter O’Mahoney called All Blacks captain Sam Cane “a sh*t Richie McCaw”. That is cutting and incredible sledging.
So, this time round of course there’s going to be a bit of chat heading back towards the Irish.
If Ireland beats us the next time we play them (I’m knocking on wood, don’t worry) we should all welcome and accept any smack-talking that happens.