Minister for Sport Grant Robertson has praised the way the All Blacks and New Zealanders are coping with their Rugby World Cup semifinal anguish, noting the vastly different reaction to the team's last early exit 12 years ago.
Robertson was among the many New Zealanders who watched on helplessly from the stands in Yokohama as England outplayed the All Blacks in their dominant 19-7 semifinal victory last Saturday.
That result consigned the devastated All Blacks to contesting third place with Wales in Tokyo today – the first time since 2003 they have been in this position – while England advanced to meet South Africa in Sunday's final.
Robertson, speaking at the New Zealand Olympic gala evening in Tokyo, compared the reaction to this defeat with the 2007 quarter-final loss to France in Cardiff and the non-Wayne Barnes forward pass decision that riled the nation.
"From what I hear back at home everyone has reacted pretty well. Everybody realises on the night we were beaten by a better team. It's not like we were robbed like we were in '07," Robertson said.
"Of course we wanted to win and I know the team has done a lot of soul searching. I didn't think I'd ever say this but I'm looking forward to the bronze medal game.
"England played an amazing game and in the end deserved to win. Some days that will happen to a great team. The All Blacks will be regrouping for this game and then you go into next year and a new era with a new coach and a new captain and that's going to be exciting for everyone."
Robertson visited the All Blacks after the match but, given the emotional scenes, did not linger in the sheds.
"I did go down to the changing rooms after the semifinal and it was obviously a pretty quiet place but it was good to go and say to them 'well done, you've done us proud, you haven't got the result you wanted'. I managed to go round and have a very brief chat with the team but unsurprisingly they weren't in a good space.
"The attitude we took was that if I'm at a test I tend to go down and you don't just go down when they win, you go down when they lose as well because that's part of showing support for what they've done.
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"Their respect for Japanese culture, their respect for the tournament, everybody knows the All Blacks are an amazing team. You don't win two World Cups in a row without that. Winning three was always going to be a huge ask.
"In football when Brazil won three they gave them the trophy so this is a huge thing and it didn't come off but people do respect them for the way they've handled themselves on and off the field."
Glancing ahead to next year's Tokyo Olympics, scheduled from July 24 to August 9, Robertson believed the New Zealand Olympic Committee would consult New Zealand Rugby about the experience of the All Blacks over the past two months.
For Japan, the Olympics will be another chance to build on their successful World Cup hosting but, as with the typhoon which forced World Rugby to cancel three pool matches, there will be challenges with temperatures expected hit at least 38 degrees and humidity to cause major issues.
"Looking at the way they've hosted the rugby you'd have to say they'll do it well. The hospitality has been great, everything has been run very efficiently and I think we'll see that.
"Obviously there's a few concerns about the heat particularly. They are aware of that and they have many, many plans in place to try and address that."
Throughout the World Cup the Japanese have adopted the All Blacks as their own, donning jerseys and singing the New Zealand national anthem at their matches.
Robertson expects New Zealand's Olympic athletes to enjoy similar support next year.
"A number of Japanese officials I've met say New Zealand is everyone's second favourite team in Japan. Those connections are strong and obviously with the Olympics you've got the echoes back to '64 and perhaps our greatest ever afternoon of sport with Peter Snell so there's a lot to bind us together.
"The rugby is the first course on what's going to be an amazing couple of years.
"New Zealand is well regarded in every sporting endeavour and next year is another chance for not only New Zealand to be proud of our Olympic athletes but the world to see who we are as a country and a nation."