Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen mentions Ireland, 'chokers' and World Cup in same interview
'Shag' trying to bring us back to earth.
Back in 2019, it was hard to find a team that wanted a sniff of the World Cup favourites' tag. The previous November (2018), Steve Hansen suggested Ireland had set themselves up on the lofty perch by defeating them at Aviva Stadium.
Ireland had won the Grand Slam, a Test Series in Australia and beat the ABs in Dublin, all in the space of nine months, and World Rugby crowned them Team of the Year for 2018. Joe Schmidt, though, did not want a bit of such talk.
Ireland, as we all know by now, faltered badly in 2019 and were eventually thundered by New Zealand in as one-sided a World Cup quarter final as you would ever see. When it mattered, Hansen's men had delivered. That was until they ran smack-bang into England in the semi-finals.
Off the back of the 2023 Six Nations, Steve Hansen - in his role as World XV coach for a game, later this year, against the Barbarians - has gone back over old ground when discussing this Ireland team.
Steve Hansen on Ireland at World Cups
Ireland are on a 10-Test winning streak that folds in a 2022 sweep of the Bank of Ireland Nations Series, the Six Nations Grand Slam and the final two matches of their victorious series against the All Blacks, in New Zealand.
Steve Hansen, a two-time World Cup winner (2015 as head coach and 2011 as assistant to Graham Henry) with the All Blacks, insists the ‘world number one’ tag brings with it a pressure that will be Ireland’s cross to bear as they look to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time. The Kiwi commented:
“Ireland were good throughout the Six Nations,” he said. “In that final game they started off a bit shaky and England rattled them a bit, but once the red card came it was game over and they were good enough to take advantage of it. They’re going well, ranked number one in the world, and they’ve had a great year so far.
“Every time a team is number one in the world, you’ve got to consider them to be a World Cup contender – but it’s a tough tournament to win, and they were number one going into the last one, weren’t they?
“So, they’ve seemed to struggle a little bit at World Cups. If it was the All Blacks, they’d probably be called ‘chokers’."
"But Ireland have come a long way," Steve Hansen added. "They believe in themselves, and they’re a very good side, so they’re definitely a contender. But they’ll have to overcome the pressure of not having gone past the quarter-finals before, and there’ll be a lot of pressure involved in that.
"If they get through to the semi-finals, then they’re in new territory. That’s something they’ll have to deal with that they’ve never dealt with before, and it’s always hard to deal with something you haven’t dealt with before."
In fairness to Andy Farrell, who took over from Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup, he has called on his team to embrace being No.1 in the world, and all that comes with it. He also insists this Ireland team can be much better than they have shown over the past 18 months.
2023 marks a return to the world stage for the 63-year-old, with Hansen set to lead the World XV against Eddie Jones' Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday, May 28. The likes of Semi Radradra, Marika Koroibete and Ngani Laumape have all been confirmed to be appearing for the World XV and it should be a cracking contest.
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