New Zealand continue a decorated history of mind games
The All Blacks coaching staff have ramped up the mind games ahead of this Saturday's Ireland and New Zealand game at the Aviva Stadium.
After trying to insinuate that injured Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray would play against New Zealand, the All Blacks have now shifted their focus to Johnny Sexton and Bundee Aki with assistant coach Ian Foster claiming that Sexton tries to advise referees while Aki has been moulded into, and now looks like, an Irishman.
The All Blacks have a decorated history of trying to get under opponents skin and here we look back at some of the ploys they have tried to use in the past to try ruffle their opposition.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen on the possibility of Conor Murray playing his first game since the summer against the All Blacks
“I’m assuming Conor Murray will play, so they’ve got a good spine,” said Hansen after mentioning Ireland’s tactical smarts and aerial ability.
“He and Sexton are two of the best players in the world so they’ll drive them around the park.
“Big players get up, and if they think they’re right to play, then let them play. They’re competitors and Conor Murray is a real competitor, so if he says he’s right to play, he’ll be right to play.”
Australian fly-half Bernard Foley not buying into the theory that two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett could be dropped for Crusaders fly-half Richie Mo'unga in the Rugby Championship
“I think it is more internal mind games,” Foley said back in August.
“We saw it a couple of years ago in 2015 when they had the same discussion about Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett, and Dan Carter won the world player of the year that year. I think it is internal mind games.
“I can’t see why there would be anything different. He has been the stalwart for many years, he is the world player (of the year) at the moment, so I can’t see why it would be any different.”
After Robbie Henshaw was carted off following a high tackle by Sam Cane, and after Simon Zebo was the subject of a dangerous high tackle from Malakai Fekitoa in the All Blacks win in Dublin in November 2016, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen asked why Johnny Sexton wasn't punished during the same game
"It was a physical game but we went at Ireland no harder than they went at us. They were pretty quick to point out what we did but no-one was pointing out the stuff they did.
“In a game of rugby there are going to be some things that go the way they shouldn’t go because it is a dynamic, physical, moving game.
“Malakai’s high tackle was a high tackle. Is it our fault the ref saw it as a yellow card? But yet he didn’t yellow card Sexton for taking other people’s heads off."
New Zealand have won every Bledisloe Cup since 2003 yet Hansen claimed that the Wallabies were favourites for this year's trophy after a dead rubber win in 2017.
"They won the last one, they have to be (favourites) don't they?"
Ahead of the first Test with the Lions last summer, and after Hansen suggested that he was not expecting anything new from coach Warren Gatland, the New Zealander suggested that the Wales boss was running out of time to get his lineup ready
"Do I expect them to do something different? Well (Gatland) keeps telling us he's got something up his sleeve other than his arm so we'll wait and see, won't we?
"He's started running out of time to get the practice. I've always said, once you have the style that works for you, you usually stick with it, so it's going to be a big move if he changes and we'll wait and see."
After Ewen McKenzie replaced Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach, Hansen tried to put pressure on his selection dilemma between Quade Cooper and Matt Toomua
"Is he feeling a bit mentally challenged because he doesn't know which five-eighth he wants to play?" Hansen asked of McKenzie.
"I'd imagine when Robbie Deans wasn't picking Quade Cooper, McKenzie was probably saying `I'll pick you Quade, I'll pick you'.
"Our information is telling us that he's going to pick the other bloke (Toomua). It doesn't bother me a hoot who they play.''