Steve Hansen lays into NZ Rugby

Steve Hansen spoke out on a number of issues plaguing the national game in an extensive interview...
Steve Hansen spoke out on a number of issues plaguing the national game in an extensive interview. Photo: Getty Images
Coaching legend Sir Steve Hansen says a split between New Zealand Rugby and top players has contributed to the All Blacks' test struggles.

Hansen - the greatest All Blacks coach - criticised New Zealand Rugby's performance in a number of areas, in an interview with Today FM's Tova O'Brien.

Hansen gave his views on a range of rugby matters.

On the topic dominating rugby headlines right now, Hansen believes Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is fully capable of stepping up to the All Blacks without gaining overseas experience first.

All Black reject Robertson caused shockwaves in the game this week, saying he was ready to coach a rival test nation.

"Razor is just positioning himself and good on him," said Hansen, who began as a test coach by following Sir Graham Henry's path to Wales.

"I think Scott Robertson is a wonderful coach and his time will come. Then we'll see if he's ready or not.

"The difference between Super Rugby and international rugby is massive. He has a great record and he can coach.

"I don't think it matters (coaching overseas first) as long as you are flexible in your thinking and develop your rugby mind as you go. You can do it here in New Zealand or overseas.

"For me the route was overseas and it gave me the opportunity to go through adversity. I think all good coaches go through adversity at some point in their career, and we are seeing that with Ian Foster."

Hansen said the under-fire Foster, his former assistant, was a "very good coach".

"He won't be happy with how things have gone of late but I don't think the issue is just inside the team. There are bigger issues than that," Hansen said.

The wider issues included a decline in New Zealand's standards at under-20 level and a rift between the administration and All Blacks.

"The relationship between the board and the executive with the players at the moment is probably the worst it's ever been," he said.

"The way they handled the new [Silver Lake] money scheme … [former chairman] Brent Impey came out and absolutely roasted the players, with no consultation.

"I don't think they (NZR) are doing their job right at the moment.

"You've got a group of great All Black captains coming out and forming a group which went and spoke to them … Kirky (All Blacks great Ian Kirkpatrick) was in the paper saying they felt they weren't listened to.

"Let's start there, to get that right.

"If you look back to when we were really successful from about 2010 to 2019, which was our most successful era, the board and the executive at the rugby union were humming.

"There was complete togetherness and connection with the actual All Black team."

He said England and France had dominated recent under-20 World Cups, making it difficult to find the quality of players needed for the All Blacks.

"Our high performance department has to be squirming about our record at under-20 level," he said.

"Are we getting that side of our business right? I don't think so."

The World Cup winner suggested that reviews conducted by NZR had not sufficiently protected Foster and former Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore.

Those sorts of actions would lead to a high turnover of staff, he said.

"There's been a lot of reviews recently – when did NZR do a self-review?", he added.

But he believed current CEO Mark Robinson was up to the job.

"He's just in the job … the period we are going through with Covid, no one else has had to do that.

"There's a new head coach, a new CEO … why did the rugby union let (former CEO) Steve Tew go, or force him to go, at the same time as I finished in 2019.

"We had two relatively inexperienced people running the ship. I can't fathom that. Mark Robinson is going to be a good CEO."

He also criticised some social media and press reaction to Foster describing it as "cruel, nasty, malicious, spiteful, vicious, straight out bullying really".

"We talk about mental health but we are not showing too much of it," he said.

"I love journalists. They are the conduit. The problem is how they are doing it.

"They may have been shafted by NZR but not by Ian Foster. Why don't they put their attention to the NZR?"

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