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Hansen: "What a difference a week makes, eh?"

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes Ireland were at their absolute best during his side’s narrow victory in Christchurch.

AS NEWLY-APPOINTED coach of the reigning world champions, New Zealander Steve Hansen has a clear interest in favouring his side over their less illustrious opponents.

That said, Ireland fans will be in no mood to forgive his summary of Saturday’s second Test in Christchurch anytime soon.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference convened in the bowels of Rugby League Park immediately following the encounter, Hansen, former understudy to Graham Henry, prefaced his remarks by offering Ireland a congratulatory “pat on the back” before delivering this withering assessment of their industry:

“The big thing tonight is that we have beaten an Irish side that has, probably, played as good as they could have. We didn’t play great.”

Hansen also responded to allegations of gamesmanship stemming from referee Nigel Owens’ decision to award New Zealand a 72nd-minute penalty for an illegally wheeled scrum:

“I think we have to be very careful we don’t put Nigel Owens in the middle, [claiming] he’s the reason we played badly and Ireland missed out on getting a draw. I think, across the board, Nigel was reasonably consistent in his performance…

“We’re not making any excuses for using the referee, and I’m sure Ireland won’t either.”

His diplomacy was echoed by veteran flanker Richie McCaw, pushed by an Irish journalist to state whether or not he considered Owens’ intervention appropriate.

“To be fair, Ireland had pressure on our scrum, but you’ve got to do it legally and, in the view of the referee, they did it (at that scrum) illegally.”

Ireland take to the field in Hamilton, New Zealand for the series’ third and final Test this coming Saturday.

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