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'Two coaches who don't have any belief' - Hansen unloads on Gatland and Nienaber

By Ian Cameron
Steve Hansen speaks with Warren Gatland prior to the World Cup 2019 bronze medal match between New Zealand and Wales in Tokyo (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has taken aim at the boring rugby showcased during the British & Irish Lions tour, a brand of the sport that’s ‘turning people off’.


Hansen, who stepped down as coach of the All Blacks in 2019, cultured a squad of All Blacks who were renowned for their ball running and their ability to counter-attack from deep, and believes the current obsession with kicking and defence has to be challenged.

Speaking in an interview on  Newstalk ZB, Hansen became the latest big name to decry the rugby played in the sport’s biggest showcase outside of the Rugby World Cup and he didn’t pull any punches in laying the blame at the feet of Warren Gatland and Jacques Nienaber, saying the tactics employed by the pair were utterly negative.

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“You’ve got two big packs and two coaches who don’t have any belief in what’s going to happen if they throw the ball around, so they just beat each other up,” said Hansen.

“‘Let’s slow the ball down, let’s get off our feet, do whatever we can to make sure our defensive line is stable so we can keep battering’.

“It’s not a game that anybody wants to watch. Yes, we want a good physical contest, that’s what the game is about – physicality, speed, using the ball and skill.

“Could you say we saw that in that series? Of course we didn’t. And it turned a lot of people off.


“Suddenly, the All Blacks became popular again – ‘let’s hope the All Blacks can rescue rugby’. It’s not about the All Blacks rescuing rugby, it’s about everyone that’s involved in it taking some ownership and saying ‘right, we need to do something here’.”

Hansen doesn’t believe limiting the number of subs will make a fundamental impact on the game, an argument put forward by recent player welfare group made of up a number of former Lions greats, and say it’s ‘not the issue’.

“I don’t think changing the subs is going to help one iota, I think it actually just compounds the problem because you’d have a lot of fatigued players out there. So for me that’s not the issue.

“The issue that we have in our game at the moment is there is no clear officiating of the rules.

Steve Hansen
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“If you look at the rulebook, it talks about a ruck and it never talks about the breakdown. Breakdown is a word used more often than any other word in the game – there’s not even a rule for a breakdown and we have an old, antiquated law that says two people will bond over the ball and that’ll be a ruck.

“Well that never happens in the game.

“A lot of the injuries we’re getting are actually friendly fire, so you and I make the tackle and I knock my head against your elbow or your head.

“So we’d create a game where there’s a clear picture at the breakdown that yes, ball is quicker, the defensive lines won’t be able to set as quick; so attacking lines will be attacking against destabilised defences more often and there’ll be more space.

“I think the opportunity to be really brutal will dissipate.”

Biggar Lions Russell
(Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

He also says the game has become too complicated for its own good, arguing even players and coaches struggle to interpret and understand the game.

“When players don’t understand it, when people watching the game don’t understand it, when coaches don’t understand it, when referees can’t be consistent, we’ve got an issue and we’ve got to address that issue.

“What we’ve tended to do over the years is add, add, add; when history will tell you that if you make something simple, by taking things away, then you’ll get more consistent at making those decisions.

“I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall for quite some time to get people to understand that we’re over-complicating it.”


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