Steven Hansen stops short of criticising Poite
‘We all know what happened, and we all know what should have happened’
Steve Hansen: “We’ve ended up with a hand on the trophy each which is a bit like kissing your sister. There’s not a lot in it for anybody.”
The All Blacks’ disappointment with a drawn series is assuredly the more acute, and that feeling is liable to intensify as the days pass. To his credit though, Steve Hansen preferred to reflect on the positives of a compelling series and the contribution of both teams, while refusing to criticise French referee Romain Poite for his controversial decision to overturn a penalty for the All Blacks in the final minute to a scrum. Admittedly, he didn’t completely hide his displeasure about that one.
Hansen, as is his wont, began by giving a statement before taking questions. “Firstly I would like to congratulate the British and Irish Lions for drawing this series. It’s been a fantastic three-match series.
“Both teams have played their hearts out and it’s come down to the wire and we’ve ended up with a hand on the trophy each which is a bit like kissing your sister. There’s not a lot in it for anybody.
“At the same time I think it’s been a wonderful advertisement for rugby, and the rugby that’s been played by both sides. I also want to say how proud I am of our own team. I think we’ve had a few things not go our way with injures and stuff not like that, and we haven’t quibbled about it.
“The boys have got on with it, worked hard, played hard, and gave ourselves a good chance tonight, and probably didn’t score the points when we created the opportunities. So something for us to look back on. We always said that we come out of this series learning more about ourselves and growing as a team, so we’ll do that.
“I congratulate both sets of fans. Hopefully the British and Irish Lions fans have travelled around our country and really enjoyed their time. Hopefully the Kiwis have made them feel at home, and maybe they’ll go back and talk about New Zealand and send more people back over here to visit.
“I know you all want to talk about the last three minutes of the test match. So we’ll get there first. It’s a tough game to ref. We all know what happened, and we all know what should have happened, but at the end of the day, it’s a game and as little kids we’re taught to take the good with the bad, and we have to do that. That’s all I want to say about that, and if you ask me questions about that, I’m probably not going to go there. We’re accepting of whatever decisions are made. Whether we agree with it or not is something we’ll do our talking to the referees about.”
I’m trying to do my best not to talk about this.
Whereupon, he was asked about little else.
“It’s a decision the ref’s made and we’ll live with it,” said Hansen.
Pressed further, he said a little wearily: “I’m trying to do my best not to talk about this. Going back to the World Cup the same thing happened and Scotland missed out because they didn’t use the video. This time they used the video and they had a pow-wow.
“If they’d played on and we scored under the posts I’d have liked that. His initial instincts were that it was a penalty, he spoke to his team of three and one of them said it was accidental. So we can’t change that. If we’d scored another try ourselves there wouldn’t be this conversation.”
Hansen was asked about the amount of handling errors in the opposition 22 which cost them a number of tries: “That’s a tribute to the way the Lions are playing,” he said. “Their defence is built around being right on the edge. They come with a lot of line speed and we didn’t cope with it in the manner you normally would.
“There’s pressure there for a young backline. Going back to the start of the series, I’d have liked someone to put their hand up and pick the team that was on the park tonight. I’m proud how the guy on my right (Ian Foster) put the plan together, and the way we went about executing it, we just didn’t finalise it. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the British and Irish Lions for that.”
Hansen paid glowing tribute to his captain Kieran Read on the occasion of his 100th test. “He’s our captain and he’s become a warrior for us.”
Read could scarcely conceal his disappointment after sharing the trophy presentation with opposite Sam Warburton, following only his third draw in his international career.
“It’s a bit of a hollow feeling, I guess, a draw. We don’t turn up on a Saturday and want to draw or lose - we want to win. We’ll look back on this series and think a draw is better than a loss but right now it’s mixed. I’m proud of playing 100 tests but I’d probably swap all of them for a win to be honest.”