Mack Hansen not just along for the ride despite call-up he didn’t see coming

The Australian-born Connacht flier is hoping to represent his Irish mother with pride

Mack Hansen admits he was surprised an Ireland call-up came as soon as it did having moved from Australia. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Mack Hansen admits he was surprised an Ireland call-up came as soon as it did having moved from Australia. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Mack Hansen’s development over the next couple of years should be interesting.

With their Australian connections, Andy Friend and David Nucifora would have identified the talented, Irish-qualified 23-year-old along with Andy Farrell and even though he hit the ground running, little time was wasted in fast-tracking Hansen into the Irish squad during November for a week and now fully for the Six Nations.

While all his nine appearances for Connacht have been on the left wing, where he has scored six tries, Hansen can also play fullback and indeed outhalf, as well as goal kick. Such versatility could also be decidedly useful come the World Cup.

That said, Hansen has been as surprised as anyone by the speed of his inclusion in the Irish squad.

“Definitely. I’m still lost for words sometimes when realising I’m here and being able to hang out with some of the best players in the world. It’s just unreal.”

While he likes to swim near his new home in Barna, being in Portugal for a week has its fringe benefits too.

“It’s amazing to be back in sunlight, to be honest. No wind or rain, it’s a bit bizarre, but it’s lovely over here and enjoying it all so far.”

Learning all the new calls in November was trying, but he talks of how welcoming everyone has been, the helpful camaraderie between the outside backs, with specific mention for Hugo Keenan, and how his ambitions have risen.

“I’d be lying if I said just being here would be great, which it would, but being here now I want to put my name forward and hopefully get that cap. That would definitely be an accomplishment I hope I can get. If it doesn’t come to that, all I can do is go back, keep playing my rugby and hopefully get another opportunity.”

The carrot of potentially playing Test rugby was, he admits, a “huge” part of his motive for joining Connacht.

“I had offers to go to other places but I wanted to come here to chance my hand and have an opportunity to play international football. It was something that was always in the back of my head, I won’t lie to you. To think it would come on real quick, I didn’t really think about that at all. I was more just focused on playing well for Connacht and if I could do that, then the rest would kind of take care of itself.”

Were it to come to pass, Hansen says it would be “unbelievable”, adding: “It would just be surreal to hit the peak of rugby, where I honestly didn’t really think I would ever get to. I have been asked, would it feel different (from) putting on the Wallaby shirt? I don’t think it would make any difference.

“It has been something I have always wanted to do. Just because I didn’t really grow up here in Ireland, doesn’t mean I don’t find this place home. I have taken to this place as much as I can and they have given back to me the same. It would be such a special moment.”

Hansen admits that he has had to adapt to the kicking game of the northern hemisphere, and specifically improving his work under high balls, but has been helped by Connacht’s brand of rugby.

“They want to play quick and fast and play a really exciting brand of rugby so it wasn’t actually too hard of a transition. If anything I think it was the type of thing I needed, being able to be myself and come over here and just play my rugby.”

His mum, Diana O’Shea, hails from Castlemartyr in Cork. His dad, Craig, comes from Sydney, and was a prop with Manly and did some coaching. His paternal grandfather played rugby league for Australia and his maternal grandfather played hurling, while his gran and biggest fan, Bettie Hansen, and his mum are grateful he wears headgear, as it makes it easier to identify him.

While playing commitments and Covid have prevented him from seeing extended family in Cork thus far, back home his family are along for the ride.

“They were stoked, absolutely stoked for me. Mum is fully Irish, so you can tell that she’s a little bit more excited. She probably doesn’t want to admit it, but I think she has taken to footie a little bit more knowing that I am playing for her home country.

“They are both ecstatic for me, as it’s the same with my dad. He doesn’t mind where I am playing as long as I am enjoying myself, which I really am.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.