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07th Feb 2022

“If you can’t be yourself, there’s no point putting on the jersey”

Patrick McCarry

Mack Hansen

Words that the former Brumbies winger lived by.

Mack Hansen comes across as a pretty laid-back chap, with little fazing him. As most of this island was getting carried away with his Ireland debut, he sat there, blinking away. Taking it all in.

Hansen ran for 105 metres [off 10 carries] and came up with two big plays that led to Bundee Aki getting over for Ireland’s opening try, against Wales. He remained busy throughout the game and got the RTÈ man of the match award.

“To get my first Ireland cap is something I will remember for ever and ever,” he later reflected. “I’m trying to breathe it all in.”

Some, including House of Rugby host Greg O’Shea were high on Hansen, before the Six Nations, but expected him to be made wait for his Test debut. Jordan Larmour and Rob Baloucoune were both left disappointed, in the end, as Andy Farrell went for Hansen.

On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 1:50 below], O’Shea was only too happy to hold his hands up and offer the in-form Connacht winger his humblest of apologies.

(Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

Andy Farrell’s advice to Mack Hansen

“It was the commentator’s curse in reverse,” said Greg O’Shea of his prediction Mack Hansen would not feature against Wales.

“He starts, first of all, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, Greg, you’re such an idiot!’ But that was a shock for everyone. It was a bit of a talking point.

“Then he goes out and gets player of the match. It was like, ‘What do I know?!’

“I publicly want to apologise to Mack Hansen – you had an incredible game. I wasn’t doubting your ability. I was doubting that you had the experience. And now you’ve gone out there and you’re probably the best player in the Ireland squad, at the moment.”

O’Shea actually got to interview Hansen, post-match, for BBC’s Rugby Union Special and remarked on his unflappable nature. It would be hard to tell by his easy demeanour, after the game, that the 23-year-old had just starred on his Test debut against the reigning Six Nations champion.

Andy Farrell has remarked on how life at the deep end of professional rugby has come naturally to Hansen, and he wanted him to take that attitude into his debut.

In his post-game briefing, Hansen recalled Farrell’s advice to him just before he headed out for an Ireland debut in a jersey that, the night before, had been presented to him by Connacht teammates Bundee Aki and Jack Carty.

“Andy said, ‘If you can’t be yourself, there’s no point putting on the jersey’.

“When Andy says something like that it sticks with you. Just go out there and enjoy yourself – that’s all you do at the end of the day.”

A fine first impression has been made.

For his second chance to impress, Hansen is set to face off against the electric Clermont and France star Damian Penaud. It should be an enthralling duel.

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