Ireland winger Mack Hansen.
No regrets

Mack Hansen: 'The decision to play for Ireland has been the best decision of my life'

The Australian will come up against some familiar faces when Ireland take on the Wallabies this weekend.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 16th 2022, 7:58 AM

THERE WILL BE over 50,000 people packed into the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night but all eyes will be on one man when Ireland and Australia line up for the anthems.

It’s just over 18 months since Connacht announced the signing of Mack Hansen from the Brumbies. The 24-year-old has been an Ireland international for less than a year, making his Test debut against Wales on the opening weekend of this year’s Six Nations. Cap number nine in the Ireland shirt nine arrives this weekend against his home country. 

Mixed emotions, but no regrets.

“I’m very happy where I am,” says Hansen, who represented Australia five times at U20 level.

“I guess you could think what would have been with anything, so no, the decision to play for Ireland has been the best decision of my career and my life. I’m loving it over here and enjoying it.

“It is still nice to hear from your peers and people back home, but not once have I been upset or kind of thought what if, if I stayed there or (not) made the move.”

How the Wallabies would love to him in their ranks now. While still in the early stages of his Test career, the Connacht winger is already established as a key figure in Andy Farrell’s squad; starting four out of five in his first Six Nations and two out of three on the summer tour to New Zealand.

Earlier this week he was named in a four-player shortlist, alongside Ireland teammate Dan Sheehan, for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award. 

mack-hansen Mack Hansen speaking to the media in Abbotstown. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Irish audiences have been fully aware of his attacking threats ever since he tore through the Bulls to score a brilliant try on his home debut for Connacht. Those back home may have been a little slower to realise his full potential. On Monday, Australia’s forwards coach Dan McKellar, who coached Hansen at the Brumbies, admitted the winger is one that got away from a Wallabies perspective.

Australia’s loss is Ireland’s gain. Hansen was immediately eligible to represent Ireland with his mother, Diana – maiden name O’Shea – growing up in Castlemartyr, Cork, before moving to Australia with her family when she was around seven years old. There are still O’Sheas in Cork, so Hansen had family on these shores when he arrived in the summer of 2021.

On the pitch, his style of play allowed him to easily slot into Farrell’s Ireland system. 

“I like to think I’m a pretty head’s up player,” Hansen continues.

“Andy and Mike [Catt] and all coaches and players have given me such a license to play my game. They are big believers in that if you see something, go for it, you know?

“Just because you have a number on your back it doesn’t mean you are held down to that position so… The way we play and the way everybody just connects with each other, it just makes it so much easier to go out there and play footy and not have to worry about just doing one single job.”

So what about this weekend, and the strange experience of standing through the Australian national anthem before singing the Irish one?

“I guess it’s just something I’ll have to experience when it happens. I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about it too much.

I’m still trying to learn the Irish one. If the camera can get to me at the start, I sing from the start and then just kind of fade away at the end. So if any cameraman is reading this article, film me at the very start when I’m absolutely singing the thing! He stopped on me for what felt like about 10 minutes last time and I didn’t know it towards the end.

“No, it will be just a cool experience.

“I’ll have a couple (of family members) from my mum’s side that are over here who will get to the game. But there hasn’t been too much chat. No-one is trying to make this bigger than it really is. It’s something that doesn’t happen every day and I guess I was an Australian not too long ago and now I’m here playing for Ireland, but really it’s another Test match that we’re trying to win and that’s my main focus. I’m not focused on anything else.”

Familiar faces in the crowd, and familiar faces on the pitch.

“All the Brumbies lads, I’d be fantastic mates with. Everyone in the Brumbies, the thing you tend to hear around the world from everyone who comes and joins the club, is how close of a family it really is. It’s bang on. Everyone gets on so well.

irelands-tadhg-beirne-and-mack-hansen Hansen has quickly become an important part of Ireland's attack. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“So, I’d hate to just pinpoint one of two and then leave the other lads out and they feel like I hate them now! But I guess I grew up with Lachy Lonergan and Nick Frost was my roommate back home. That’s obviously going to be a pretty funny one but then there’s other guys like Tom Wright, all the forwards, all the usos in the team.”

There will be time to catch up over a beer after the game, but during, you can expect a few choice words to be fired in Hansen’s direction.

“Ah, they can’t sledge for s**t! [Nic] Whitey will be chirpy like always but the rest of them aren’t very witty or smart!” Hansen adds. 

“That’s what the whole game is about. It’s about going to war on the field and then afterwards just being able to have a laugh about it and be able to enjoy a quiet beer or two.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be really cool. I haven’t played any of these before and a lot of them are good friends of mine. I haven’t really done that in a long time, so it’s going to be a great experience.” 

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