Monday 22 May 2017

All Blacks boss Hansen has high praise for Irish football team as he reflects on 2013

Paul O'Connell congratulates New Zealand captain Richie McCaw after the Autumn international in 2013
Paul O'Connell congratulates New Zealand captain Richie McCaw after the Autumn international in 2013
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Steve Hansen says Ireland did not have the element of surprise when they came within seconds of beating New Zealand in 2013.

But the All Blacks coach believed that his side's mind-set was wrong on that day at the Aviva Stadium as they almost let their 100pc record against Ireland slip.

Hansen believes Ireland should have won that day and spoke respectfully about Joe Schmidt's team as he announced his team for the Chicago clash yesterday.

He is expecting a lot of kicking from Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton and a physical encounter to match what came at his side last time out.

But he believes his side are better prepared this time around.

"I don't think there was any surprise. The end of the year, back then, was the first time we'd gone around Argentina and South Africa, learning a lot about how to handle that travel and how to keep guys fresh," he said.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen watches Scott Barrett during training. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen watches Scott Barrett during training. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"It's the same when the Northern Hemisphere guys come down South, that part of the year is always difficult if you don't manage it right. You've got guys who are starting to think about packing their suitcases and going home, and that's another thing we learnt.

"You can't be thinking that, you've got to have your mind on the job, what's happening right now.

"If you turn up and you're 5pc off your game, anyone can beat you.

"Ireland that day turned up to play, and we were probably 5pc off, and as a result we struggled for the most of the game.

"I know that this Irish side is a good team - last time we played them they should have won and they've only gotten better since then.

"They'll be disappointed by what happened at the World Cup, but they had a lot of injuries through the tournament and that put them under a lot of pressure.

"They probably didn't have the success they wanted, but they've continued on and beaten South Africa, had a great series about them.

"They'll be full noise, so we'll need to be full noise too.

"You can't be offf your game, because they'll penalise you.

"So we've just got to make sure that we plug the holes that we think we've got and hopefully he (Joe Schmidt) hasn't seen more than what we have."

Hansen named a much-changed team for the Soldier Field clash, with Jerome Kaino a surprise choice in the second-row as the All Blacks deal with the loss of their top three locks.

George Moala is included in the centre, while Waisake Naholo is on the wing ahead of Israel Dagg.

Beauden Barrett and captain Kieran Read are retained, and the out-half's brother Scott could make his debut off the bench.

The star out-half spent a year in Ballinacree, Co Meath as a youngster and yesterday spoke fondly of the experience and his connection with Ireland.

"I loved it," he said. "We taught the little school in Ballinacree how to play rugby. It was all round ball, Gaelic or soccer back then," the New Zealand star said.

"I remember getting told off the first day of school for taking my shoes off because it was cold. That was something I wasn't used to."

Hansen began his press conference by paying tribute to the late Anthony Foley.

"We'd like to convey a message of sympathy and best wishes to the Foley family on the death of Anthony," he said.

"It was a tragedy and one that was felt right throughout the world. . . our thoughts and prayers are with them.

"I didn't know him that well but when you're in the game as long as we've been, we certainly knew he was a good player. The All Blacks played against him on a couple of occasions."

Irish Independent

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