Steve Hansen hails All Blacks’ character after they get revenge over Ireland in bruising encounter
World champions rebound from shock defeat in Dublin
World Champions New Zealand showed real character in rebounding from a shock defeat a fortnight ago to beat the same side Ireland 21-9 in Dublin on Saturday said coach Steve Hansen.
The 57-year-old – who guided the All Blacks to a successful defence of their World Cup title last year – added they had been put under huge pressure, especially in the second-half, and had answered the call.
Hansen – who had not been very happy when in the immediate post match TV interview he had thought his side were accused of being a dirty side – said it was especially creditable given after the World Cup last year they lost players with over 800 caps between them.
“I’m pretty happy,” said Hansen.
“Two weeks ago this team lost to the same opposition and this created adversity.
“Today was all about how they would stand up to that pressure ... they answered that.
“It wasn’t always pretty and they have a lot to learn but give the players and experience we lost with over 800 caps they’re going pretty well so far.”
Hansen, who picked up the world coach of the year award last Sunday for the fourth time in five years, said the way the players had stood up to the Irish, who failed to score a try, could not be taken out of a training manual.
“We had character especially as for 20 minutes of the match we played with 14 men [they had two players sin-binned Aaron Smith in the first-half and two try scorer Malakai Fekitoa in the second],” said Hansen.
“You can’t coach character.
“Did we play the smartest rugby? I don’t think so but I thought it was a fair dinkum test match.”
Hansen, who took over the role five years ago after Graham Henry stood down after winning the 2011 World Cup, said that a difference between the defeat in Chicago and Saturday’s game was a different mindset shown by the team.
“We turned up here with the right attitude,” said Hansen.
“I think in Chicago we turned up with our attitude off by five per cent and we paid for that.
“In rugby it sounds simple but to win big tests you have to be able kick it, pass it and use the space.
“I thought our kicking was much better today than it was in Chicago.
“And we ran at their defence, who didn’t seem to be keen on tackling but preferring to wrest the ball off us.
“Beauden Barrett saw that and he scored his try exactly through that.”
Joe Schmidt professed to being proud of his Ireland players but frustrated too at not clinching a second successive win over the world champions.
The 51-year-old Kiwi saw three of his key players (Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and CJ Stander) leave the bruising battle within the first half hour in a match they ended up losing 21-9, although there was controversy involving two of the three tries the visitors scored.
“I am frustrated but really proud of the effort,” said Schmidt.
“When you lose your fly-half [Sexton] and your inside centre [Henshaw] both of whom were immense in Chicago it is a huge loss.
“Both Paddy [Jackson, Sexton’s replacement] and Garry [Ringrose, who came on for Henshaw] both did huge jobs.
“However, I felt at times understandably given the changes in personnel we lost our shape and were a bit static.”
Schmidt, who could well be without Henshaw, Sexton, Stander and fullback Rob Kearney for the final November test against Australia next Saturday, said he had thought Ireland could become the first side since South Africa in 2009 to beat the All Blacks twice in a row.
“I thought when he trailed 14-9 we could win it,” he said.
“So when you don’t get a result after you pour on the pressure and drop a couple of balls close to the line and have a couple of our guys break the line but be held up it is very frustrating.
“I think the All Blacks were relieved to get off the pitch at the end the amount of pressure we put on them.”