AP NEWS

Hurt after loss, Hansen livid at question of NZ’s commitment

October 26, 2019
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen attends a press conference after their 19-7 loss in the Rugby World Cup semifinal against England at International Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen attends a press conference after their 19-7 loss in the Rugby World Cup semifinal against England at International Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Already hurting after the All Blacks’ unbeaten streak at the Rugby World Cup was upended by England, Steve Hansen was livid when the commitment of his New Zealand players was called into question.

Hansen had congratulated England and its Australian coach Eddie Jones after the 19-7 win and accepted that his two-time defending champions were upstaged by a better team on Saturday.

But when All Blacks captain Kieran Read was asked if the team turned up with the right attitude, Hansen listened to that answer before delivering a one-two-three combination in response of own.

“I’d just like to clear that up, too. I think it’s quite a disrespectful question,” Hansen said. “To suggest that the All Blacks turned up not being hungry. They’re desperate to win the game. Because I’m asking at halftime to get hungrier, doesn’t mean to say they’ve turned up not hungry. There’s a big difference.”

To follow it up, he added: “Do you want to spend some time outside, I’ll give you a rugby education on that one.”

And noting the All Blacks’ success rate, he closed: “That’s a pretty average question.”

Hansen, who is quitting after this World Cup to work in Japan, has an outstanding record as All Blacks coach. After serving apprenticeships in 2007 and 2011 — two completely contrasting campaigns — he replaced Graham Henry and led New Zealand on its successful title defense in 2015.

He went into Saturday’s game at International Stadium in Yokohama with 92 wins and nine losses in 105 test matches.

“We have no regrets, very proud of the All Blacks,” Hansen said. “Sometimes sport is not fair but tonight it is. We are going to have to pick ourselves up and play the losers from tomorrow (Wales or South Africa) and that gives us the chance to see off the tournament in a positive note.”

An upset quarterfinal loss to France in 2007 triggered a major overhaul that ultimately led New Zealand to winning the title at home four years later and in England in 2015. They were aiming to be the first team to win three consecutive titles, and the first to reach five finals.

“No loss is easy to take,” Hansen said, when asked to compare New Zealand’s two defeats, 12 years apart. “The only reason it’s slightly better is that it was semis rather than quarters. The boys are desperately hurting as are the management.

“But you have to put your big boys pants on and stand up and be counted. That adversity will feed a lot more All Blacks teams in the future, so find one positive out of it.”

It was a downer for captain Read’s 34th birthday. The veterans in the New Zealand pack tried to chase the game late, but England kept the scoreboard ticking over with three second-half penalties after leading 10-0 at the break. It was just the second time New Zealand had been held scoreless in the first half of a World Cup game — the first was in a semifinal loss to eventual champion Australia in ’91.

Sam Whitelock was also playing his third World Cup and had never lost a game at the tournament. But even with that experience, the 31-year-old lock lost control when he shoved England captain Owen Farrell in the 67th minute after New Zealand had been awarded a penalty. Referee Nigel Owens reversed the penalty and, at 16-7, it was another letdown for the All Blacks.

England outplayed the All Blacks at the breakdown, had more possession and territory and made a big impact with their defense despite making fewer tackles.

“We gave as much as we had and today we came up short,” said Read, a 126-test veteran who is moving to play club rugby in Japan. “We are extremely disappointed by that, and it’s hard to put things into words.

“The guys absolutely turned up with as much as we could bring and we fell short, but we will pick ourselves up.”

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