Departing All Black coach Steve Hansen has opened up about that semi-final loss to England, speaking to All Blacks TV.
Hansen concedes that the match still hurts and he has had a lot of time to reflect on it.
“It’s still one of those things that bugs you, it still hurts and will do for the rest of time,” he said.
“Why did we lose the World Cup? Well, we lost to England, and why did we lose to England? I’ve reflected on that quite a lot.
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Hansen went on to explain that the massive win over Ireland did them no favours, as they may have relaxed a little bit ahead of task that no side has achieved, winning three World Cups in a row.
“What we were trying to do has never been done before, and with success comes a little less desperation.
“It was a perfect storm really, we played South Africa first up, got that job done, had lesser opponents after that so that mental side of the game didn’t come into it.
“We had a massive week into [the quarterfinal with] Ireland, and that was a game that had everyone on the end of their seat. When we won that and won it so comfortably, subconsciously I think all of us may have relaxed a little bit. Let go of two percent of that desperation we had. It’s not something that you do deliberately, it just happens.
Hansen’s side pummeled a hapless Ireland side 46-14 in a match where the Irish self-imploded to gift the All Blacks countless opportunities from turnover ball along with a horror error rate. It would be a stark contrast to how clinical the English would be a week later.
“Then we played England who have been waiting for two and a half years to play this one game. Very, very desperate, right up at 100 percent, and if we are at 92 percent, that’s a big shift. They came at us and played well and deserved to win.
In hindsight, Hansen believes the messages during the week may have been off given the preceding win in the quarterfinal.
“I looked at myself, and the messages during the week and maybe they weren’t on the money the way they could have been from a mental point of view, knowing that we have just come off a big win against Ireland.
He also pinpointed the selection of a pack that included lock Scott Barrett at 6 to provide another jumping option as a strategic ploy that backfired, as England’s lineout consistently won clean looks.
“We selected a team that wanted to attack and dominate the lineouts, and unfortunately that didn’t happen. England’s lineout on the day was outstanding. So then we were asked to defend a lot.
The All Blacks kicked for touch 75% of the time while failing to contest a single kick kept in play over the 80-minutes. Despite the lack of possession, the side did managed to stay in the game until late in the contest when a try to Ardie Savea narrowed the gap to 13-7.
“While we did do well, both teams score one try each, they were going forward for most of the game. It made it tough, and then on top of that we gave away some silly penalties and we couldn’t get the momentum back to get it done.
A pivotal moment came when Sam Whitelock shoved Owen Farrell in what led to a penalty reversal in England’s favour.
Hansen says he is proud of the way his team took the defeat and believes the result will shape the future of the All Blacks for the players who will be around in four years time.
“At the end of the day, we lost one game. It won’t define us. But it certainly will shape us.
“It’s important they bottle that pain and make sure it’s used in a way that makes them even more successful than they have been.”
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