Rugby: Hansen shows hard edge with 'martyr' comment

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen
New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew says it's only now that we are beginning to see the "real" Steve Hansen.

That, says Tew, is an All Blacks coach who is honest, forthright, loyal and funny. And boy, didn't we see all of those characteristics in Sky Television's documentary The Weight of a Nation which screened on Sunday night.

Hansen, one of Sir Graham Henry's assistants during a tournament which culminated in an agonising final victory over France, was the star of a film which included such heavyweights as Henry and captain Richie McCaw.

His comments about Wallabies rival Robbie Deans wishing to appear as a "martyr" when failing to get the All Blacks coaching job after the 2007 World Cup have not surprising made headlines here and across the Tasman.

How the interviewer posed the questions in the film, which was broadcast on Sunday night, isn't known, but the answers look stark in black and white and are the continuation of a mutual loathing which goes back more than 15 years.

Honest? Sure. Willing to bury the hatchet in an otherwise rosy retrospective? Not likely.

"If you want my honest opinion, I don't think Robbie wanted it [the All Blacks job] anyway," Hansen said. "I think Robbie had already signed for Australia.

"I think he just went through the motions and wanted to be the martyr if he didn't get it, so he wins on both sides of the table. That's how I felt about it because you don't go to a [New Zealand Rugby Union] selection meeting and when asked, 'Who are going to be your running mates?' - knowing that the opposition [Sir Graham Henry] has got two pretty good candidates [Hansen and Wayne Smith] behind him - with a wishy washy answer. He did.

"And that's why he lost the job, from my understanding. So, did he really want the job?"

If Deans, under pressure due to a lack of results and rumours about tensions within the Wallabies, keeps his job after next year's British and Irish Lions tour, that little soundbite is bound to be repeated before the Bledisloe Cup series.

Hansen won't care too much. His humour is well-known to his players and friends and he has shared more of that with the media, and by extension the public, this year. But there is no doubting his hard edge, as the Deans comments show.

Tew, a good mate of Hansen's, said yesterday the All Blacks coach was finally letting his guard down.

"He's become much more confident and open with you guys [media] and I think we've seen the real Steve Hansen come out which is something actually that I've been seeking to happen for some time.

"But he's also had a very good year, so the test will be if we have a more challenging set of results, won't it, because that's when you have to deal with the more challenging side of the media. But Steve is a very confident and I think he's a very humorous individual and ... we're just seeing a bit more of the normal Steve Hansen ..."

That's a Hansen prepared to become surprisingly emotional on camera about the relief he felt on his team winning last year's final and the joy it gave the New Zealand public - but ruthless at the same time.

A parting shot? Referring to Quade Cooper's willingness to target McCaw with cheap shots leading up to the World Cup, he said: "I think the players think, who do you think you are carrying on like that? It's not the way New Zealanders behave."


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