Sunday 18 March 2018

Hansen dismisses significance of Ireland's Chicago win


All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Sportsfile
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has dismissed the relevance of Ireland's win over his side last November for the upcoming Lions tour.

Lions coach Warren Gatland said the tourists would draw belief from Ireland's 40-29 win in Chicago, but Hansen was quick to remind him that New Zealand had reversed the result two weeks later in Dublin.

Although he hailed the strength of the 41-strong Lions squad named on Wednesday, the New Zealand supremo appeared less than complimentary about the approach he expects from Gatland's charges.

The teams will meet three times in June and July after the Lions go through a hectic build-up having come together in the aftermath of the Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals.

If Gatland is looking for his team to channel the spirit of Chicago, Hansen thinks he'll need to look elsewhere.

"I'm pretty happy that our guys got some confidence beating Ireland in Ireland," he said.

British & Irish Lions coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Paul Harding/Sportsfile
British & Irish Lions coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Paul Harding/Sportsfile

"You're clutching at straws if that's how you are selecting teams. You pick players who can do the job you want them to do and play the style of game you want to play.

"It (the squad) is pretty much what you'd expect from Warren. He likes his big ball carriers in the middle of the park and his big grunty forwards so that's what he's picked and I'd expect we'll get a similar game-style to whatever we've got when we've played a Warren Gatland team.

"I think they'll tell us they will (want to play with an expansive style), but I think they will want to win up front first. This is the best Lions that we've seen come here for a long, long time.

"There is depth all the way through, that's why people like (Dylan) Hartley and some of the Scottish boys have missed out."

Meanwhile, Munster and Leinster will unveil their teams for this weekend's Champions Cup semi-finals at noon today.

Rassie Erasmus is without Conor Murray and sweating on the fitness of Rory Scannell, but is expected to welcome CJ Stander and Duncan Williams back into the starting XV for his side’s meeting with Saracens.

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster are likely to stick closely to the side that beat Wasps in the quarter-final for Sunday’s meeting with Clermont Auvergne in Lyon, with Fergus McFadden pushing for inclusion.

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell believes tomorrow’s game in Dublin is too close to call.

Farrell played for Saracens and began his coaching career with the London club, while he spent part of last season with Munster. His son Owen will be the English side’s starting out-half, while a host of his current charges will be in Rassie Erasmus’s team.

Although Munster effectively have home advantage and are expected to dominate the crowd at a sold-out Aviva Stadium, European and English champions Saracens are the bookies favourites for the game.

“What a game it’s going to be and the game the day after is going to be just as exciting as well,” he said.

“Two sides that are very confident in the way that they’re playing at the minute. Two sides that seem to know and be comfortable in what they’re about, as men and as a team.

“Saracens have been masters over the last period of time of playing the game in front of them, no matter where they’re playing but I’m sure they’re aware of the army of red that’s going to come to the Aviva and a Munster side that is bang in form at this moment in time.

“I wouldn’t call it.”

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony will be a pivotal figure as he returns to the stadium where he produced a man of the match performance against England last month to help remind the Lions coaches of his credentials.

“Everyone knows there’s a performance like that in Peter,” Farrell said. “You could see a build-up through the Six Nations... he accepted being on the bench but you could see he wasn’t accepting being on the bench and then there was a build and he got his spot right at the last moment.

“He was ready to perform.”

Irish Independent

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