Wednesday 25 April 2018

Steve Hansen confirms All Blacks will contest Sam Cane citing

Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is tackled by Sam Cane and (inset) Fekitoa scores a try
Robbie Henshaw of Ireland is tackled by Sam Cane and (inset) Fekitoa scores a try

Harry Clarke

Steve Hansen has confirmed the All Blacks will contest the citing of Sam Cane following Saturday's bruising 21-9 win over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Both Cane and Malakai Fekitoa were cited for dangerous tackles but Hansen believes Cane clashed heads with Robbie Henshaw and did not commit an illegal tackle.

However, they will not defend Fekitoa for his "clumsy and high" tackle on Simon Zebo which drew a yellow card from referee Jaco Peyper.

The players' hearings are scheduled for later on Monday in London and Hansen hopes to attend both while in town for a coaches conference.

"They are what they are,” said Hansen when asked about the citings.

“Fekitoa’s challenge was clumsy and high, but we will defend Sam’s - we believe it was a head clash.

“We can understand why the citing commissioner wants to cite it, a guy got knocked out. We’ll go there and get a good hearing, I’m hoping, and go from there.”

The All Blacks head into their season-ending match against France with pride restored but counting the cost of their bruising victory over Ireland on Saturday.

Hansen confirmed fullback Ben Smith and flanker Sam Cane were injured in the 21-9 win in Dublin and would miss Saturday's match at Stade de France.

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Lock Patrick Tuipulotu had also left the squad to fly home for "personal reasons".

Regardless of the outcomes, Hansen will be forced to re-jig his side for Les Bleus, who were pipped 25-23 at home by Australia at the weekend.

The coach said he would rely on the existing squad to fill the holes and not fly in reinforcements.

That means Ardie Savea or Matt Todd will replace Cane at openside flanker, with Israel Dagg or flyhalf Beauden Barrett both capable of starting at fullback.

The All Blacks avenged their shock loss to Ireland in Chicago two weeks ago, which snapped their record run of 18 successive wins and gave the Irish their first ever win over New Zealand in 111 years.

Persistent questioning from Irish media over the All Blacks' tackling took some of the gloss off Saturday's win for Hansen, and hooker Dane Coles defended the team's physical game upon arriving in Paris.

"We can't control what other people say, all we can control is our performance and the way we play rugby and if people don't like that then obviously you can't please everyone," Coles said.

"We take a lot of pride in playing the game in the right way and in our performance."

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