Hansen fires back at British press

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has arrived in London with compliments for his England opposite Eddie Jones but not without a sharp word for those journalists whom he said were "disrespectful to the jersey" and the debutants who played Japan in Tokyo.

Hansen named eight debutants for the 69-31 victory last weekend, all of whom contributed well and in some cases – particularly George Bridge – suggested they have big futures with the All Blacks, but the sentiment by one English newspaper writer that he was handing out "confetti caps" clearly offended him.

Asked this morning by a UK writer about his "experimenting" last weekend at Ajinomoto Stadium, and whether that would be continuing this week before the test against England at Twickenham, Hansen seized his chance to fire back.

"I think you've got to be careful with the word 'experimenting'," Hansen said. "Rugby coaches have got a job to do today, tomorrow and for the future. Some of you guys over here, I think you called them 'confetti caps', which I thought was pretty disrespectful to the jersey.

"There is not one of those guys who played who didn't do the jersey credit. The job of the coaching group and management group is to create a future for that jersey and that's what we did. We said at the time there are some risks that come with that but there will be some rewards too.

"If you look back to that game, there are some players who really put their hand up and it also allowed us to send a group over here early.

"So I think it's important when you now talk about Saturday it's a totally different mindset because it's about today. That [Japan] game was about tomorrow and the future and a lot of those guys might not be involved again until 2020 but the experience they've had will stimulate them to go away and become better rugby players and therefore serve New Zealand rugby better than they have in the past, and they've been doing a pretty good job of that thus far. I think that's important to understand."

Left wing Bridge scored two tries and set up another in an extraordinary debut after replacing the hapless Nehe Milner-Skudder, who has yet another shoulder injury. Loose forward Gareth Evans also impressed after coming off the bench for the final quarter with his ball-carrying and vision on attack, with midfielder Matt Proctor playing 80 minutes and fellow starter, flanker Dalton Papalii, doing plenty right during his 60 minutes on the pitch.

So Hansen was talking from a position of strength and one that could hardly be quibbled with. As he said, the experience will be invaluable for all the players involved, plus the coaches who will now know far more about them, so while it may have carried risks it was a gamble that has clearly paid off.

It has also allowed the vast majority of the match-day squad for the Twickenham test to acclimatise in London to prepare to play a team they haven't met in four years, one that will play very differently to a Rugby Championship nation or Japan.

Hansen's apparent esprit de corps with Jones – the pair communicate every second week and their wives regularly stay in touch – suggests the build-up and aftermath of this highly-anticipated test will take a respectful tone, but that's not to say the All Blacks coach won't fire a few verbal bullets at the press, particularly those writing for English publications.

His good mate Jones, an Australian, has already had a go here. After England's 12-11 victory over South Africa, Jones, who led the team to 18 wins in a row when he took over but has seen the wheels come off the chariot since, told the assembled reporters: "We are a bloody good team and lost a few games but today we won. Why does it have to be the most important game — because you guys want to sack me? You are going to do it at some stage, you know that if I stay long enough, and one day you will be happy. You will say fantastic, another bloke we can terrorise."

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