Thursday 19 September 2019

Steve Hansen to reveal next move before Christmas as speculation mounts that Joe Schmidt will replace him

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, left, and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, left, and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Tom Cary

Steve Hansen, the New Zealand head coach, says he will make a decision on his future “at some stage around Christmas”, sparking further debate about the possibility that Joe Schmidt, the Ireland head coach, might take over from him after the World Cup.

As the rugby world continued to digest New Zealand’s dramatic 16-9 defeat by Ireland on Saturday, Hansen also claimed that Schmidt’s team would now experience what it was like to play with a target on their backs.

“We’ll see how they cope with that,” he said. Hansen had claimed immediately after Saturday’s game that Ireland – while still officially No 2 in the rankings – were now the “best team in the world” and favourites for next year’s World Cup. And he did not retreat from that position on Sunday after arriving in Rome, where his side face Italy this weekend.

“They’re fitter, so whoever is doing their conditioning work needs a pat on the back,” Hansen said. “Their defence is great. Both teams last night defended for long periods really, really well, so, Andy Farrell is a great defence coach.

“Their scrum was good, it took us a while to get on top of that. So, everybody in the team is doing their bit and Joe is obviously leading it very well. They’ve become a team that believes in themselves and are priding themselves on how they’re playing.

“It’s their turn at the moment [to be the best in the world] so we’ll see how they cope with that.”

Hansen’s contract, like Schmidt’s, is set to expire after the 2019 World Cup, and there is speculation that Schmidt might return to his homeland to take over the All Blacks job.

“We’re all going to be making announcements shortly,” Hansen said. “Not right now… I decided before I left that I was going to make one and I’ll do that when I get home at some stage around Christmas.”

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