Friday 18 August 2017

'He didn't yellow card Sexton for taking other people's heads off' - Steve Hansen reopens Ireland v All Blacks row

 

Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is tackled by Sam Cane
Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is tackled by Sam Cane
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Mick Cleary

Steve Hansen has told the Lions not to invest any hope in the fact that Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago last November, bringing to an end a record winning run of 18 Tests.

It was Ireland's first win against New Zealand, Joe Schmidt's side scoring five tries and building up a 17-point advantage by half-time before withstanding a second-half comeback.

Warren Gatland highlighted the value of the victory when announcing his squad, stating that it was revealing "to see some of these world-class players be human, make some mistakes, show some frailties - and that gives you self-belief".

Hansen categorically rejected that notion.

"If the Lions are going to read too much into that, it would be a mistake," he said. "Because they are not Ireland.

"I'm sure Gatland will come with his own style and way of wanting to play the game and that will not be the same as Joe Schmidt.

It (defeat) was inevitable at some point for us. We could look at the fact that we had three top locks out and other absences too.

"But then we would be ignoring the inconvenient fact that we didn't play well. So, there were some good lessons in there for us."

New Zealand were fired-up for the return at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin a fortnight later, a brutal affair in which two All Blacks, Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa, were sent to the sin-bin, the latter for a high tackle on Simon Zebo, which many felt merited a red card.

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw also went off with concussion after New Zealand flanker Sam Cane made contact with his head.

There was outrage in Ireland at the aggressive approach taken by New Zealand as they avenged Chicago with a 21-9 win. Hansen hit back at claims that his side were beyond the pale.

"It was a physical game but we went at Ireland no harder than they went at us," he said. "They were pretty quick to point out what we did but no-one was pointing out the stuff they did.

"In a game of rugby there are going to be some things that go the way they shouldn't go because it is a dynamic, physical, moving game.

"Look at the Robbie Henshaw one. Sam Cane goes in to make a tackle and the guy (Henshaw) pirouettes. It's not something that happens often so you can't anticipate it.

"Malakai's high tackle was a high tackle. Is it our fault the ref saw it (only) as a yellow card? But yet he didn't yellow card (Johnny) Sexton for taking other people's heads off.

"A lot was made of it all but I think it was just a really good game of Test rugby, with two teams hell-bent on playing well and going for the win."

If nothing else, the nature of New Zealand's performance showed that they have a hard edge to them.

If anyone felt that the Lions might be able to put them under the cosh through the physicality of their forwards, Hansen was quick to disabuse them.

"I'm confident we've got some very good rugby players up front," he said. "You can't win without that.

"The Lions would be foolish to think that there's not an expectation there for them to do well. There will be a massive expectation on them.

"If you're a Lions fan, you'd look at it and say, 'We've got four countries going into one against the opposition, we should be able to beat these blokes'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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