Lions Tour debacle: 'One person in particular has told us over and over again that the decision was right'
Steve Hansen has spoken out about the referee mistake that may have cost the All Blacks a chance at a series victory over the British and Irish Lions in 2017, saying he is still “annoyed” that World Rugby never apologised.
In the 78th minute of the thrilling third test, with the series tied at one a piece and the match deadlocked at 15-15, the All Blacks were handed a penalty close to the posts only for referee Romain Poite to reverse the original decision to an accidental offside.
The penalty was initially awarded for an offside against Lions hooker Ken Owens, but Poite was persuaded to review the call with the TMO – seemingly without any evidence to do so – which ultimately changed the decision.
The match would end up fizzling out into a draw, with the series also frustratingly shared between the two sides.
Hansen – who stepped aside as All Blacks coach last year after 16 years with the team – has been relatively muted about the controversy over the past few years, but in an interview with ex-Black Cap and cricket commentator Ian Smith, he admitted that he is still frustrated with how World Rugby handled the incident.
“I have always understood that the referee will make mistakes. So he’s made a mistake and he’s got that wrong,” Hansen said on Sky Sport’s new series The Pod.
“The thing that annoyed me most about that incident, and still does to this day, is that we haven’t had an apology from World Rugby.
“They’ve told us … well one person in particular has told us over and over again that the decision was right. Yet we all know … everybody in the world knows it’s not.
“We’ve had conversations [with Romain] and we just said, ‘move on, Romain, you can’t change it, it’s not your problem’.”
Hansen said all he wanted from World Rugby was an apology, which he believes would’ve helped his side move on from the frustrating incident.
“All we wanted was for the head of the rugby referees to say, ‘look, sorry we’ve got that wrong’. And then you can turn around and say to the players, ‘OK boys, the decision was wrong, but we’ve just got to cop it’.”
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The drawn series still comes up in rugby circles, with Lions coach Warren Gatland recently floating the idea of a fourth match “decider” ahead of the Lions’ next tour to South Africa next year.
“I’ve spoken to Mark Robinson about a warm-up game for the Lions and he was potentially talking about the New Zealand Maoris,” he said.
“But is it something that the All Blacks go up there for? A decider before we go off to South Africa at the end of June next year.
“Potentially it’s an opportunity to make £4 million or £5 million from a game like that and put some money back into the coffers that we’re going to need.”
Hansen said he supported the idea, but disagreed with the notion of it being a “decider” given how different the teams would be.
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