Saturday 25 January 2020

Hansen: What happens on field should stay on field

New Zealand All Blacks rugby coach Steve Hansen. Photo: AFP/Getty
New Zealand All Blacks rugby coach Steve Hansen. Photo: AFP/Getty
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

After a week dominated by the back and forth between the two head coaches, Steve Hansen attempted to diffuse matters by chastising the New Zealand Herald for their depiction of Warren Gatland as a clown and praising his opposite number's character and coaching credentials.

Part of the reason that tensions were raised this week was the concerns raised by Gatland over the perceived illegal targeting of Conor Murray by the All Blacks in the first game, in particular the moment when Jerome Kaino threw himself at the scrum-half's standing leg.

Over the course of the week, the storm rumbled on social media, with New Zealand fans and media finding moments in the game to portray incidents that suggested Lions' foul-play.

Hansen was initially incensed by the insinuation that his side are a dirty team, just as he was angered by the same suggestion after his men had defeated Ireland in Dublin last November.

And he believes fans, coaches and the media need to step back from what he believes is an overly dramatic focus on specific incidents and let the authorities deal with it.

"There's no point dragging stuff up," he said after being asked by a Kiwi journalist about an image of Mako Vunipola getting up to no good.

"What happens on the park is adjudicated by a guy (TMO) who is connected to the ref, and they are doing a pretty good job of making the game a lot cleaner than it was in yester-year, and we've got citing commissioners now.

"If they don't see it, move on. It's a hard game we play, and there are going to be times when people unintentionally step over the line and do something they might regret later.

"That's been happening for ages, you only have to look at what happened in the game on Tuesday night with Iain Henderson. It was very reminiscent of what happened to Brian O'Driscoll. I am just pleased he just got a yellow card and nothing else because he didn't do it intentionally.

"But in the heat of the moment, his skills at the breakdown to clean him out have not been right, so he's paid the price with 10 minutes in the bin. Move on from it.

"I don't know any rugby players that we've played against or I've coached that intentionally go out there (to hurt someone)

"There's a guy that does that (cite people), let him take care of it.

"Rugby is a big boys' game, played by big boys and people with character. If you thought something was intentional, then you would (cite people). There are a lot of things that happen in the heat of the moment, and they are definitely not intentional so there's a process, let it work through.

"When we get emotionally involved in it as coaches, then we've got to take a big breath and (ask) is this the type of bloke or team that would intentionally do that?

"Then you (the media) need to take a deep breath and say I know that wasn't right, but are they a team who would intentionally do that or are they emotionally in a place where they just made a mistake?

"A lot of the drama that comes with some of these incidents would calm down a bit and we'd get them dealt with in a better way."

Although the animosity between the two coaches has been evident throughout the tour, Hansen said he is looking forward to sharing a beer with Gatland after the third Test, and he was heavily critical of the Herald for their "disrespectful" cartoon.

"It is really disappointing," he said. "It's one thing to have a bit of banter, and then you guys beef it up to make it bigger than it really is. I have heard you say that I don't like him, and we won't have a beer.

"I have got a lot of respect for him. I think he is a good coach. I have got a lot of respect for the Lions, they are a good team.

"To come out and do that, you are ridiculing somebody that doesn't deserve it. We are all coaches trying to do what we think is right. Sometimes people don't always agree with what we do, but that's okay, you are allowed to have your opinion.

"But to ridicule someone is not right."

Irish Independent

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