If Mack Hansen was any more laid-back he’d be prostrate, although as a precursor to meeting the media he readily agreed to pose while toing and froing on a children’s rocking chair in a kids’ playground on The Campus in Quinta do Lago.
True to type, Hansen recently accepted a bet with Jim Hamilton to add to his many tattoos with one of the former Scottish international turned pundit depending on the outcome of the Six Nations round-four game between Scotland and Ireland in Murrayfield.
“Yeah, I’m a man of my word,” said Hansen.
“We just need to beat Scotland. Just Big Jim. I’m thinking maybe bottom of the foot or something where it won’t be seen too much. Foot or arse!”
His mum, Diana O’Shea, who hails from Cork, and his dad, Craig, from Sydney, recently completed an eight-week holiday in Europe but having returned to Canberra they won’t be at any of the Six Nations games.
“I don’t know why they didn’t do the Six Nations. They’re pretty much like me, just in case I didn’t get selected. That was kind of the mindset for that so thanks mum and dad for that.
“They went down to Cork and what not, loved Galway. They’re big into going into pubs and every second place there is a pub so it’s fine, they gelled there. Then they did a lot of travel around Europe – France, London, Italy. They had a very good trip. They enjoyed it. Mum is from here obviously so she got to see a lot of family and they loved it and they’ll be back as soon as they can.”
It’s hard to credit that the 24-year-old Connacht wing only breezed into the Irish team this week a year ago when making his debut in the corresponding meeting with Wales.
He played in four of Ireland’s five-match campaign, and after missing the first Test in New Zealand with Covid, Hansen played every minute of the ensuing two wins and all three autumn victories, although he hasn’t really reflected on his whirlwind year.
“Probably not really, to be honest. Yeah, Test rugby stuff’s easy, isn’t it! No, just joking. I’ve just been very fortunate to be part of such an unreal team, playing with Johnny, at 37 being nominated for Player of the Year again.
“Leinster, even though they didn’t get what was probably their just deserts last year, they’re still an unbelievable team. They’d be the best club team in the world I’d say by far and they all gel so well together that it’s just easy for me to slot in and play my role and do my job. I don’t feel that I have to do too much.”
Hansen announced himself on the international stage with that stunning try directly from Joey Carbery’s restart in Paris but hasn’t re-watched it in ages. Aside from anything else, that raucous night in the Stade de France was his sole defeat in an Irish jersey.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a little shock to the system. I’d never really played in front of anything like that before. They were just bouncing around the whole time, screaming at the top of their lungs. You don’t know what they’re saying. I think it will be a lot like Cardiff as well, even though they speak English!
“But we learned a lot from that game, for sure. A lot of the guys put their hand up and said that it shocked a lot of us, so it’s something that we’ve been working on and I don’t think it gets much bigger than playing in Cardiff.
“First things first,” he says, that being the Six Nations and not thinking about the World Cup at all, although he does allow himself to think of Ireland winning a first Championship since 2018.
“Definitely you think about winning it, for sure. You’d be kidding yourself otherwise. It is a one game a week thing but you also know that if you lose one of those games, your chances kind of go out the window.
“Take last year, four unbelievable games really and it got us second. So, you definitely think about the championship the whole time, but you know how ruthless this ‘comp’ can be.”