‘Where the hell did all that come from?’ Andy Farrell unhappy with Mack Hansen non-story

‘Did Andy not just censor a question about this a second ago?’ Ireland head coach and Peter O’Mahony unhappy with speculation

Speculation that Mack Hansen’s initial exclusion from the match-day squad for Ireland’s World Cup opener against Romania was due to him being a naughty boy can safely be filed in the non-story category.

That it was evidently much ado about nothing was reiterated by Andy Farrell on foot of him announcing the team to play Tonga at the squad’s new hotel base on the outskirts of Nantes, with Hansen named to start.

Normally very mild-mannered at press conferences, when Hansen’s name was raised by a member of the media who’d first raised the possibility that the winger’s selection might have been related to something off-field with Mike Catt six days ago, Farrell cut him off at the pass.

“Was it you who was kept on asking the question last week? Where the hell did all that come from?” said the Irish coach, raising his voice.


Because he was the major player left out of the match day 23?

“Left out of the 23?” said an incredulous Farrell, almost shrieking. “No. Anyway ... carry on,” he added, waving his hand in frustration.

So the reason Hansen was omitted?

“Because we wanted to give someone else a game, as simple as that. And case in point, actually, as far as everyone being ready to go, it’s exactly the same this weekend.

“So, if Robbie pulls up on Friday and Mack is covering three different positions off the bench and did superbly for that, that’s the type of thing that needs to happen within a World Cup.”

Farrell signed off on the matter by saying: “Mack’s up next so you can ask him the question as well was he a naughty boy, he definitely wasn’t!”

Hansen and Peter O’Mahony were up next but when the former was asked if he’d been aware “of the rumours” that he had “misbehaved in Biarritz”, a plainly irritated O’Mahony interjected.

“Did Andy not just censor a question about this a second ago?” he inquired, wearing that fierce-looking O’Mahony scowl.

The press officer interjected, saying it was a rumour and incorrect, that the matter be dropped as it was unfair to Hansen. Yet Farrell had invited anyone to do so and Hansen, not remotely bothered of course, might well have given a typically more expansive and carefree answer than the one which followed.

“We had a five-minute tiff, whatever, and we’re fine now,” he said, clearly tongue-in-cheek. “So, it’s all good!”

Hansen certainly didn’t seem to be in Farrell’s bad books after the full-time whistle when he gave his shorts away to someone in the crowd, with the coach laughing as he took pictures of the winger, who has recently added a tattoo of Farrell to his collection.

“I’m not the first person to take their shorts off after a game. I doubt I’ll be the last. I’ve been told to keep them on this week. I’ll try my hardest, I’ll see how I’m feeling.”

On the eve of his first World Cup start, Hansen also said: “A lot of my mates are over at the moment, so it’s tough getting snapchats of them smoking vapes and drinking beers at 12 in the morning while I’m trying to prepare for a game but it’s good craic.”

While he may be as daft as a brush with an irreverent attitude to pretty much everything, it’s clear that Hansen quickly endeared himself to all the squad.

“According to you, he’s been nothing but trouble,” said O’Mahony. “He’s been a breath of fresh air. An incredible character, good person. We talk about it a lot, the squad that we have and how important that is to fit in and straight away we knew he was a top man.

“A character but above it all he’s an incredible athlete and one of the world’s best wingers at the moment, which is a great addition to add to the squad.

“But as I said, the overriding factor is that he’s a good person and he’s seamlessly fitted into our squad like everyone else has. He’s been great craic and you need characters like that.

“The beauty of the game of rugby is the different characters you get and we’d be lost without guys like this. Tours like this are made for being incredibly serious, and obviously our jobs and everything that goes with it, but the craic that fellas like this bring make it a great place to be.”

The speculation around Hansen a week ago in part originated from Farrell being asked at the team announcement for the Romanian game if the winger was injured, and having said that was not the case, on foot of a general question which followed, he revealed: “I said to you in the Samoa week going to Biarritz, the reason we went there is that there’s a lot of distraction that goes on, certainly when you’re in a hotel that’s on the beach.

“Some people handled that brilliantly, some people didn’t. Learning from those experiences is pretty important because you don’t get second chances after this in World Cups.”

One ventures that Farrell was more displeased with the performance in that nervy 17-13 win over Samoa in Bayonne than he let on immediately afterwards, and that it may have contributed to his strong selection for this game against Tonga.

Nothing typifies this more than the selection of Johnny Sexton, who last week became Ireland’s oldest international of all time and requires just 10 points against Tonga to overtake Ronan O’Gara as Ireland’s all-time record points scorer.

“Jesus, we could be here a while,” said O’Mahony when asked to sum up Ireland’s captain. “Obviously an incredibly long career. Correct me if I’m wrong, he broke the record for the oldest Irish player to put on a pair of boots in an international rugby match? We were chuckling about it last week. He’s breaking all the records, He’s the standard bearer for Irish rugby and has been for over a decade now.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times