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'Sort it out': Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen weighs in on Silver Lake dispute

By Sam Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen has broken his silence on the public feud between New Zealand Rugby [NZR] and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association [NZRPA] over the ongoing Silver Lake saga.

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The spat between the two organisations took another turn last Friday when NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol leaked to media that Kiwi-owned investment manager company Forsyth Barr had tabled an alternative offer to rival that of Silver Lake.

The proposal, which would see NZR sell a five per cent stake in its future commercial revenues through an NZX listing, could raise as much as $650m.

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By comparison, Silver Lake, the American private equity firm, would buy a 12.5 percent stake in NZR for $387.5 million, a concept NZRPA has staunchly opposed largely due to the foreign ownership of the national union.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson slammed the NZRPA in stunning fashion shortly after the proposal was leaked to media for its “attempt to destroy” the Silver Lake deal, saying that the relationship between the organisations was “at a new low”.

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw expressed reservations about the Silver Lake deal and called for reasoned debate between the two parties in the wake of the latest twist in the well-documented dispute, a sentiment echoed by his ex-All Blacks teammate Conrad Smith.

Northland Rugby chief executive Andrew Ritchie, meanwhile, slammed the NZRPA for its “immature” actions of leaking the Forsyth Barr proposal to the media before running it by NZR.

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Now Hansen, the former All Blacks boss who assisted the New Zealand national side to their drought-breaking 2011 World Cup crown and followed that up by guiding them to the 2015 World Cup title as head coach, weighed in on the debacle.

Stuff reports the 62-year-old, who is widely regarded as one of the finest coaches in rugby history, to have said it was time for NZR and the NZRPA to come together and resolve their issues behind closed doors.

“I just wish they would stop airing all their dirty laundry in public, and sit down and get together and talk about it,” he said.

“There’s no point in arguing with each other publicly. Get everybody in the room and say, ‘Okay, let’s sort it out’.

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“The players are only sticking up for what they believe in, so you have got to give them a tick, and the rugby union are trying to get some extra money in the game, so you have got to give them a tick.”

Hansen also challenged NZR to at least consider the Forsyth Barr proposal, which values the national union up to $700 million more than Silver Lake, presented by the NZRPA.

“The board has to listen to their players, and they don’t need to be doing it in the front part of the house,” he said.

“Get everyone in a room – and actually listen to each other. They have got to be better than that.”

Although Robinson cast doubts over whether the Forsyth Barr offer would help NZR meet its objectives, it was confirmed on Monday night that national union had invited the NZRPA and Forsyth Barr to meet with its steering group on Friday.

That was made possible as Silver Lake waived its right to block negotiations with other parties.

The meeting will be attended by David Kirk, the former World Cup-winning All Blacks captain who is both the NZRPA president and chairman of Forsyth Barr.

Kirk hit back at conflict of interest claims last week as he maintained that he has “nothing to do with the negotiation with the agreement to employ Forsyth Barr to do this work” in his role as an independent non-executive chairman of the company.

Hansen, meanwhile, said he wishes that NZR allows the NZRPA to present their alternative view to the Silver Lake deal in the hope that the two bodies can come together to find a solution.

“Clearly one party doesn’t feel like they are being listened to. If that’s the case, then you are going to have people who are going to be grumpy.

“Everyone needs to change their attitude a bit, and go, ‘We are in this together and let’s sort out the best possible thing we can do for New Zealand rugby’.

“And that is all everybody really wants.”

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'Sort it out': Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen weighs in on Silver Lake dispute

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