All Blacks coach denies referee cost Ireland chance of victory
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says Ireland were no shrinking violets during his side’s brutal win at the Aviva Stadium, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor.
Hansen reviewed footage of yesterday’s brutal encounter between his side and Ireland over breakfast on Sunday morning and has reached the conclusion that both teams were equally guilty of playing to, and sometimes crossing, the line when it came to discipline.
The All Black supremo, whose side won the game 21-9, suggested that referee Jaco Peyper missed a number of incidents involving both sides in what he described as a “physical” Test match.
Ireland lost three players to concussion, two as a result of questionable tackles.
Ireland captain Rory Best and vice-captain Jamie Heaslip both pleaded with Peyper to review the world champions’ dangerous play and “cheap-shots”. He sin-binned Fekitoa, but the home side were unquestionably upset at his performance, even if they largely kept their counsel after the game.
At a media briefing he held before leaving Dublin for Paris, Hansen was asked about his side’s attitude in bouncing back from their defeat in Chicago.
“It was a good Test match by both sides and plenty of attitude from both teams,” he said.
“Obviously the discipline has got to improve.
“The Rob Henshaw tackle was a head clash. I just reviewed it again there this morning and they have collided heads. It wasn’t a high tackle so he was knocked out as soon as they knocked heads but Mala (Fekitoa)’s one was high.
“He just needs to have a look at that. It’s clumsy and it’s not the way we want to play. He will be spoken to but it was a physical Test match.
“That’s what you expect when you get two good sides playing each other. There was plenty of things on both sides; there was neck rolls and all sorts of things going on that were missed and that we could sit and complain about but when you get a physical Test match you get a physical Test match and that’s what it was.
“No quarter asked and no quarter given.
"It (the focus on the referee) doesn't surprise me. It's a tough game to ref. They're human and they're going to make mistakes. You just hope they make them consistently.”
Hansen praised his side’s defence as they managed to shut Ireland out during a bruising 80 minutes in which the home team dominated possession and territory.
“The attitude was good. They're in the house all week and you get that when you get beaten. We got beaten fair and square in Chicago, and then come back and had to do a lot of defending.
“We probably didn't play the smartest game of rugby when we had the ball, but we certainly played well when we didn't have it.”
The clash took its toll on New Zealand who will be without Ben Smith (finger) and Cane (ankle) for their final match of 2016 against France. Second-row Patrick Tuipulotu has returned home for personal reasons.
Hansen believes his team will benefit from two thunderous clashes with Ireland as they build towards next year’s Lions series and their three-in-a-row attempt at the 2019 World Cup.
“Well, they're a young side,” he said.
“As everyone knows we lost a lot of experience after the World Cup.
“Northern Hemisphere rugby is different to Southern Hemisphere, it's a lot more non-compromising and physical, and very much a hard grind up front.
“The environment causes that, it's not always nice and dry and there's a bit of snow about occasionally, it creates a different animal and a different beast.
“The games aren't as free-flowing, you've got to grind them out and it's been good for this group to go through some of that and feel what that feels like, and then find an answer for it.
“I don’t think there’s any gap between the top team and you can go down eight or nine slots.
“If you have a bad day you are going to get hurt. Ireland, England and France are good sides. Wales on their day can hurt you and Scotland have already shown what they can do.
“We can get carried away with the scoreboard at times but it’s not really relevant because what happens one day doesn’t necessarily happen the next. Everyone is striving to be better and that is great for the game of rugby.
“If we can have real competition among the top eight or nine teams in rugby then it’s good for the supporters and it makes us all get better.”
“I don’t think it’s told us anything we didn’t already know (about the coming Lions series). It’s going to be a hell of a battle.
“You combine four teams with all the talent that’s up here and they’re going to come at you with some heavy artillery and we will have to fire up and get the job done ourselves.
“The British and Irish Lions are going to be a really good side, probably one of the best sides they’ve ever sent down. Looking forward to it.”
Hansen is not expecting Joe Schmidt to be involved, however.
“We’ve known Joe for a long time. He comes from a small country called New Zealand and we know who he is and what he is capable of," he said.
"The guy who is coaching the Lions comes from the same place so he knows him.
"It will be up to them, I’m not sure what they’ll do.
"I was talking to Joe last night and I’m not sure he wants to walk away from the Irish.
"He wants to keep developing them during that period. He would be a great addition, he is a great coach.”