Steve Hansen - ‘Do you want me to tell you we’re a dirty side or something?’

New Zealand head coach unapologetic when asked about the legality of his team’s tackling

Head coach Steve Handsen defends New Zealand discipline as the All Blacks concede 14 penalties to Ireland's four at the Aviva Stadium

 

Brutal. The physical collisions should have been measured on the Richter scale, the vast majority legitimately ferocious; some that deserved a greater censure.

Jaco Peyper’s performance, and that of his fellow officials will come under scrutiny; or maybe it won’t, based on empirical evidence. But it should. World Rugby’s edict about making the game safer and for officials to be more scrupulous in punishing contact with the neck and shoulder seemed oddly vacuous when weighed against a couple of things in the match.

Tackles on Robbie Henshaw, CJ Stander and Simon Zebo in particular, and that’s not an exhaustive list of the incidents during the match, may merit further investigation.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen fielded a plethora of questions about the legality of his team’s tackling, the two yellow cards and the concession of 14 penalties, both in the post match television interview and the subsequent press conference.

He was unapologetic that his team had been punished and didn’t think that the two yellow cards in particular wanted a heavier sanction. He also felt that his side were occasionally more sinned against than sinning in term of the penalties awarded against them.

He said: “You always want the ref to be consistent, so let’s just leave it at that.

“A dangerous element to them (tackles)? I don’t think so. This is a moving game. The first one (yellow) was a head clash, there were no arms involved; that’s all. The one on the far side was obviously a little high (over) the shoulder but I don’t think there is any malice in it.

“Rugby is a shifting game when you have ball carriers moving as well as the Irish do, they are going to change direction. People are going to sometimes make mistakes and sometimes people fall into tackles too. The penalty count concerns me.

“I’m not sure where you are going with this. Do you want me to tell you that we are a dirty side or something; is that what you are saying?”

Hansen paid tribute to Ireland’s performance too while rightly celebrating his team’s defence and the fact that the 3-0 try count brooked no argument.

“They’re (Ireland) a good side. When you pay a test against a good side you are going to get momentum shifts. They carried the ball, didn’t want to kick too much and we had to defend; I thought we defended extremely well. We kept them scoreless (tryless) so credit to the defence. We didn’t miss too many (tackles).

“To come out and score three of our own is the difference in the game. It’s called a test match cause it’s a test of your character and I thought both sides contributed marvellously to a wonderful test.

“They (Ireland) played really well and should be proud of their performance: two good teams going at it. As I said before the game it was going to be a tough test.”

He pointed out to some changes from Chicago in both attitude and outcome. “We had to get our defence right and stop them scoring five tries. It was nice to keep them scoreless and that was the difference in the game three tries to none.

“Today was all about seeing how they coped with that. They answered some questions about character. It wasn’t always pretty and there is plenty to work on.”

The All Blacks answered their critics and based on that ability to ruthlessly convert opportunities deserved their triumph. They are the best side in the world. But there was so much to admire in Ireland’s defiance. A cracking test match.

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