Sunday 15 September 2019

Steve Hansen expects a "trick or two" from Joe Schmidt as All Blacks boss targets set-piece ahead of Saturday

Head coach Steve Hansen during a New Zealand All Blacks press conference at the Crowne Plaza in Blanchardstown, Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Head coach Steve Hansen during a New Zealand All Blacks press conference at the Crowne Plaza in Blanchardstown, Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen reckons Joe Schmidt will produce "a trick or two" when he pits his wits against his compatriot in Saturday’s clash of the world’s top two at the Aviva Stadium.

The All Black supremo, who this morning made one change to his side from the win over England last weekend, spoke highly of the work Schmidt has done with Ireland and their success in recent years.

The former Wales coach says he is expecting Ireland to try and hold on to the ball for long phases, echoing his assistant Ian Foster’s assertion that the home team would look to "suffocate us by possession".

"Look, you’ve got to admire what they're doing. Each coach has got to coach the group of athletes the way that best suits them," Hansen said.

"That was something I found out when I was in Wales. You might have an idea of how you want to play, but if you don't have the athletes that can do that you have to re-jig your thought process.

"They hang on to the ball for long periods of time, they're probably the team in World Rugby that hang on to the ball the most.

"When they don't get what they want with that they'll take to the air and they've got a good kicking game.

"You've got to admire all of that, it's winning and they'll punish you. They'll find a weakness.

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"He's pretty good, Joe, at finding a trick or two so we'll be expecting one or two coming our way on Saturday."

Of course, Hansen is working on ways of stopping Ireland from hogging possession.

"You hang on to it yourself, have a crack at them at source," he said.

"So, set-piece is going to be vital. What we do with the ball ourselves is important and so if we kick it we've got to kick it well, make sure we get a chance to get it back and do a wee bit of suffocating ourselves."

Two years ago New Zealand won in Dublin despite a limited supply of ball and Hansen says his troops are confident of winning whatever way they need to.

"You've got to be confident when you've had the success that this team has had," he said.

"You have got to keep your self-belief, they're very good at finding a way when things are not going the way they want them to go.

"What most people don't understand is that everybody we play has the game of their lives, because we're the team that they want to beat and they get up for it.

"So they're playing 10% better than they would have from the get-go and if they're a good side playing 10% better, then we've got to improve a lot ourselves."

Having earlier predicted that Conor Murray would play on Saturday, Hansen said New Zealand would not specifically target his replacement.

Rather, they will go after Ireland’s leaders.

“We never go out to target anybody. If you're going to target anyone you want to target the big boys, because they're the boys that lead you around the park,” he said.

“So, if you can put those kind of guys in the red, then your team struggles more. We'll just try and go out and play our own game. We won't look to target anybody.”

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