Kiwi coaching influence no surprise to Hansen
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
AUCKLAND, 14 Oct. - At least one highly knowledgeable insider is anything but surprised that New Zealanders will be coaching three of the four teams taking part in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals at Eden Park this weekend.
While it is almost a given that the host nation would be coached by one of their own in Graham Henry, former Canterbury coach and All Blacks assistant coach Robbie Deans is at the helm of Australia’s campaign while Hamilton native and Waikato legend Warren Gatland is in charge of Wales.
Considering that rugby is undeniably New Zealand’s national sport, All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen says the Kiwi influence on this weekend’s World Cup proceedings is perfectly natural.
“We produce good rugby players,” he said. “I guess it means if you’re producing good rugby players someone has to be controlling that and you know that’s usually the coaches, so there’s obviously good coaches in this country.”
While the three teams all have head coaches who hold New Zealand passports, Hansen does not believe that makes the All Blacks, Australia and Wales similar in their playing styles.
"I don't think so,” he said. “I think Robbie (Deans) and Gats (Warren Gatland) both coach differently to how we do. The background is similar so I guess that's where the similarities are.
"All three sides want to move the ball, which is encouraging but they always have wanted to. Wales is a country that wants to play rugby and with all 15 players and Australia is the same."
Deans signed on as head coach for the Wallabies in 2008 when the All Blacks decided to retain Henry after their surprise exit in the quarter-finals at RWC 2007. Deans had hoped he would be chosen for the job.
But Hansen believes that does not provide any kind of extra edge to the semi-final between the trans-Tasman rivals.
“It might be for Robbie, but it's not for us,” he said.
Hansen also said Deans’ New Zealand heritage would not make any difference to the Australia coach’s preparation or ultimate goal.
"I don't think anything changes,” Hansen said. “What does happen though is that there's a sense of pride about what you're doing and that's the same whether you are or aren't coaching the All Blacks.
“It's like playing your brother, a family member, it becomes a little bit personal, I guess, and you really want to be successful.
"I'm sure that's how Robbie's feeling. But he's done it plenty of times now so he's pretty used to the feeling.”
As the man who steered Wales to the quarter-finals at RWC 2003, Hansen knows first hand what it feels like to lead a team against New Zealand.
“It's usually the first couple of times that I found a little bit weird,” he said. “In the reverse, too. Within a month I'd coached Wales and then coached the All Blacks against Wales.
“That was a bit weird, too, all the Welsh people were screaming at me one week liking me and the other week I was coaching the All Blacks and they hated me. You just get used to it.”