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19th Apr 2024

Mack Hansen comments on All Blacks ramp up rivalry to next level

Patrick McCarry

Mack Hansen

“Fair play – letting their girlfriends do the fighting for them!”

You can see with Mack Hansen that he sometimes pauses a slight beat before deciding, ‘F**k it, I’ll say what I’m thinking’.

For rugby reporters, and for many Irish fans served up with ‘Ah, sure, look’ and ‘next game focus’ fare, over the years, the Connacht winger makes for a refreshing change. Hansen stand-outs, in recent months, includes ‘everybody hates England, in general’, his Andy Farrell tattoo, frequent ribbing of Johnny Sexton and the ‘pretty stupid comments’ from a Telegraph writer about James Lowe being ‘as Irish as a shamrock shake’.

Having arrived over from Australia in 2022, Hansen brings a different perspective on life and is some steps removed from the norms and traits of your usual Irish rugby pros. Similar to James Lowe, Hansen speaks his mind, gives an honest take on questions and does not fret too much with media-trained, rote responses.

“Listen,” he told us, this week, at a Dublin event to mark Bank of Ireland extending its sponsorship deal with the four provinces, “I’ve got my opinion. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but it’s my opinion. You don’t have to agree with everything I say.

“I think it needs to be said more. I’m happy to have a conversation. It’s when people get upset about… you know, if you want players to be themselves, we need to stop blowing up about things that are said, just because you don’t agree with them. It’s turning a little that way, with the way things are going at the moment – if you don’t agree with things people say, it’s like they’re attacking ya. It’s a strange thing going on. But, look, I’m not going to change. I just say what’s going on in my head. Sometimes, it doesn’t always work! It’s who I am, though, so I’ll keep it going.”

Mack Hansen
Pictured at the announcement of Bank of Ireland’s 5-year sponsorship announcement are Mack Hansen (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster) and Jacob Stockdale (Ulster). Credit: INPHO

Mack Hansen on growing All Blacks rivalry

Having grown up across the Abel Tasman Sea, in Australia, Mack Hansen is keenly aware of the prowess of New Zealand in the rugby world. The Aussies have a lot to boast about, but the ABs so often have their number in the big matches.

Hansen may have first dreamed of facing the All Blacks in a green and gold jersey but he was also eligible, through his mother, to play for Ireland. He arrived at Connacht for the 2022/23 season and did not take long to get pulled into Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad. He has faced off against the All Blacks on three occasions, so far, and you can tell from his comments that a real rivalry is growing.

Before we get to that, we need to tee up the back-story.

In July 2022, Peter O’Mahony added to his Irish rugby lore by telling Sam Cane exactly what he thought of him. Just over a year later, Brodie Retallick and the All Blacks were happy to blast out reminders. O’Mahony had been picked up on camera telling Cane, the New Zealand captain, he was ‘just a s**t Richie McCaw’. Ireland backed up his jibes with an historic win over the ABs, in Dunedin, and again in Wellington to clinch the series.

Stewing over that for 16 months, Brodie Retallick and Rieko Ioane were the most vocal when New Zealand knocked Ireland out of the World Cup, last October. Ioane had to be ushered away from the defeated Johnny Sexton while lock Retallick later confirmed he told O’Mahony, “Oi, Peter! Four more years, you ****wit.”

Ireland and New Zealand meet again, at Aviva Stadium, this November, and Hansen already has that game circled.

“There’s going to be a bit of feeling in that New Zealand game. Especially with the way things ended after the [World Cup] game, with a bit of trash-talk from both sides, here and there. Mostly, it was from the New Zealand side, and their WAGs [wives and girlfriends], you know. Fair play – letting their girlfriends do their fighting for them!”

The last line was said with Hansen already breaking into a laugh. There is certainly some spice going into the game but Ireland will be well aware that the Kiwis hold the bragging rights firmly, after their quarter final win in Paris. In the past decade, the sides have met nine times, with Ireland winning on five occasions.

Bank of Ireland has announced new five-year extensions of its sponsorships of the four Irish Rugby provinces, reaffirming its long-standing commitment to the game across all levels in Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. Present for the announcement of this sponsorship extension were Laura Lynch, Chief Marketing Officer, Bank of Ireland, with John Ryan, Kate Flannery and Paddy Patterson (all Munster Rugby), Abby Moyles, Jacob Stockdale and Rob Herring (all Ulster), Aimee Clarke, Jamison Gibson-Park and Josh Van Der Flier (all Leinster), Mack Hansen, Ava Ryder and Byron Ralston (Connact). (Credit: INPHO)

Mack Hansen on Jordie Barrett signing for Leinster

On the day we spoke with Mack Hansen, he had posed for pictures alongside inter-pro rivals such as Jacob Stockdale, John Ryan, Rob Herring and Jamison Gibson-Park.

Asked if there was much joking between the players about Leinster landing another world-class player, in New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett, he replied, “Fair play.

“I was asked, earlier, if I was looking forward to him coming over, and said, ‘Absolutely not – he’s a hell of a player!’

“I know people are complaining about cap-space, and stuff like that, but it’s just part of the game, and it is exciting. Looking at it from a Connacht point of view, if we could, we’d sign him. So it’s no fault to Leinster. If you’ve got the cash, and you can do it, you may as well sign players. It’s going to be great for them, great for Irish rugby and will bring in a lot of crowds.

“As for what to expect, he’s the type of guy you’d hate to play against. He’s well-rounded – he’s one of the only players in the world that has pretty much everything to his name. It’s exciting, and it also sucks, at the same time!”

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