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Hansen: 'If it was the All Blacks, they'd probably be called chokers'

By Chris Jones
Johnny Sexton of Ireland looks dejected after the Rugby World Cup 2019 (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Steve Hansen, the former All Blacks head coach, believes Grand Slam winning Ireland still have to prove they are no longer World Cup “chokers” when they attempt to lift the trophy in France later this year.


Ireland have never reached the Cup semi-finals and while Hansen acknowledges they deserve to be ranked No1, previous performances on the biggest stage in the game are a factor.

Hansen, a two-time winner of the tournament in 2015 (head coach) and 2011 (assistant coach) with the All Blacks, said: “They’re going well, ranked number one in the world, and they’ve had a great year so far.

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“Every time a team is number one in the world, you’ve got to consider them to be a World Cup contender – but it’s a tough tournament to win, and they were number one going into the last one, weren’t they? So, they’ve seemed to struggle a little bit at World Cups. If it was the All Blacks, they’d probably be called ‘chokers’.

“Ireland were good throughout the Six Nations. In that final game they started off a bit shaky and England rattled them a bit, but once the red card came it was game over and they were good enough to take advantage of it.

“But they’ve come a long way, they believe in themselves, and they’re a very good side, so they’re definitely a contender. But they’ll have to overcome the pressure of not having gone past the quarter-finals before, and there’ll be a lot of pressure involved in that.

“If they get through to the semi-finals, then they’re in new territory. That’s something they’ll have to deal with that they’ve never dealt with before, and it’s always hard to deal with something you haven’t dealt with before.”


Hansen is preparing to return to the test arena in charge of the World XV to take on Eddie Jones’ Barbarians side at Twickenham on Sunday 28 May (kick-off 3pm). Hansen sees the failure of England and Wales in the Six Nations as offering Jones and Wayne Pivac the chance to say “It wasn’t just the coaches, was it?’”

Jones was dumped by England with Steve Borthwick taking over with England finishing fourth in the table with just two wins while Pivac made way for Warren Gatland’s return to the Welsh job which saw him deliver just one win with a fifth-place finish.

Hansen said: “It’s an interesting time. The two coaches who got sacked from England and Wales (Eddie Jones and Wayne Pivac) will be looking back thinking, ‘well, there you go. It wasn’t just the coaches, was it?’”

However, Hansen is backing Borthwick to make England a difficult team to beat at the World Cup adding: “England are still England; they can still pop up and they’ve got plenty of talent.


“Steve’s finding his way, both with his athletes and as a coach at international level, but they won’t be happy with how they’ve gone during the Six Nations. Early in the game against Ireland they played well, and if they take that sort of form into the World Cup, they’ll be a hard team to beat.

“Steve’s a smart enough man to drive his own bus, but nothing is an easy fix. He’s just got to take his time and do it the way he wants to do it.

“If it works, then he can take a bow, and if it doesn’t work, then he still knows he’s done it his way. The worst thing would be if he gets pressured into doing it another way which isn’t his, it fails and then he suffers the consequences.

“He needs to just be himself. It’s always a privilege to coach your country – every day in that role is a great day to be alive and to be enjoying the challenge of Test rugby.”

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HardYakka 459 days ago

Doesn't matter how good you are, winning 3 must-win KO games in a row against top tier test teams in WC is a massive ask that will generally require a little luck and rub of the refereeing green at some point. You only need to lose one to miss out. Ireland look the most likely to do that but that means ... not a lot... France, NZ, SA, can all win a game against them on their day. Makes for an exciting cup.

DarstedlyDan 461 days ago

Hmm. As a Kiwi, that is a bit of a dickish comment by Hansen, who for some reason always seems to have a chip on his shoulder. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that Ireland are super impressive at the moment and will be tough to beat. Period.

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Jon 19 minutes ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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