TOKYO, 30 Oct - Dane Coles wiped away the tears on Wednesday as he reflected on an emotional week for New Zealand's beaten champions, but their World Cup-winning hooker offered the All Blacks some good news by revealing he plans to carry on playing test rugby next season.
It will be a night of farewells for the All Blacks when they take on Wales in the bronze final at Tokyo Stadium on Friday with coach Steve Hansen, captain Kieran Read and four other players all making their final international appearances.
But hooker Coles, above right, one of the hard men and great characters of the team, who considered retirement earlier this year after a series of debilitating injury setbacks, revealed he intends to keep playing for the team he loves.
Like Hansen and Read earlier in the week, Coles was overcome with the emotions of New Zealand's semi-final exit to England as he reflected on having his family around him in Tokyo when he felt so low.
The tears came and the father-of-two needed time to compose himself as he told reporters: "It's been real good, having my family here. The biggest thing for me is just life experiences. I never went overseas until I was about 15, and my kids have actually come here to go to Disneyland. My parents have come too, so it has been good. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cry."
No apologies were necessary. Coles has been through plenty of physical ordeals in recent times. It all came to a head earlier this year when he almost quit after sustaining another calf injury on top of having to battle with a long-term concussion and a cruciate ligament rupture.
Yet even though he will be saying farewell to some of his great friends in the squad when Read, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Matt Todd and Sonny Bill Williams all join him for one last time in an All Blacks team, the 32-year-old, who has been recalled as starting hooker for the occasion, will be seeking to continue his superb career next season.
"I still pinch myself because there were a couple of times I didn't think (playing in a World Cup) was likely. I'd love to be in the All Blacks next year. I love playing for this team.
"I still have a desire to pull on that black jersey and represent my country so there will be a strong desire to work hard next year and get back to this team because I love it and care about it."
That will be music to the All Blacks selectors seeking to ensure they can still call on a hardcore of experienced stars like the 68-times capped Coles, above centre, who brings such a rich mix of skill and feistiness to his role as one of the side's great motivators.
The man who played such a big part in the 2015 title-winning campaign accepts it will not be easy to get over their semi-final setback but he hopes his younger team-mates will be fuelled by the hurt, beginning on Friday with the Wales match.
"It's always going to be there. But adversity, it's important we learn from it," he said. "There's a lot of young guys who, hopefully, take a hell of a lot out of it. This is going to be one (defeat) that hangs around. We just have to use it in the right way."