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'It shows he's a baller. He likes to rove and make things happen'

Mack Hansen’s performance against Wales drew praise on The42 Rugby Weekly Extra.

Hansen had a dream debut.
Hansen had a dream debut.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Feb 7th 2022, 8:03 PM

TEST DEBUTS DON’T come much better than the one Mack Hansen enjoyed in Dublin on Saturday as he was named player of the match in Ireland’s bonus-point win over Wales.

The Connacht man had been a surprise pick on the left wing with James Lowe out injured and he fully vindicated head coach Andy Farrell’s decision to start him, as Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella discussed on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

Hansen can now look forward to facing France in Paris this Saturday after shining on his first cap.

Eoin: “His first touch was a nice introduction to Test rugby when you can scoot down that left edge. 

“It speaks to his confidence levels that he was willing to take on that chip over the top. It didn’t quite come off for him but it provides Ireland with the field position for that first try for Bundee Aki.

“There was a similarity in terms of his roving enthusiasm around the field and it’s him coming off his left wing, operating in the middle of Ireland’s attack in midfield, and he plays the crucial pass over the top to Aki.

“It just shows that he’s a baller. He likes to get on the ball, to rove, to make things happen and that’s why Farrell selected him in the team. 

“For Garry Ringrose’s try, there was that injection of turnover ball, very Southern Hemisphere-esque where he recognises that the Welsh defence is fractured and he provides that speed into the line to create the overlap and it’s brilliant hands from Aki on the edge to put Ringrose away for the score.

“So all of Hansen’s interventions were really solid. I’m keen to talk about Ireland’s third try because the starter player from the lineout is a seven-pass sequence, albeit Josh Adams is in the bin so you’re going against one less defender in the backline.

“To execute a play with seven passes in it is a tough thing to do in international rugby and it’s Hansen’s catch-pass that puts Andrew Conway away, so that was a really good moment of handling from him.

“It was a really accomplished first outing in international rugby from Hansen and it provided Ireland with the profile of wing that Andy Farrell and Mike Catt want in the team: having that understanding of the momentum of attack, where he can fit in, number-counting defenders to decide if he needs to stay on the shortside for an overload or go to the longside to create an extra number.

mack-hansen-with-louis-rees-zammit Hansen breaks clear for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“You could see evidence of that in his game and he will be really happy with his performance.”

Murray: “It’s fascinating to see the different roles that the two wings have on the left and right.

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“Hansen seamlessly slotted into that James Lowe role. His background as a fullback – his favourite position – and as an out-half definitely help that.

“Then Conway – who had an excellent game again and was sick on the day of the game but battled through it to play – took his tries well, particularly the first. A brilliant slide to pick it up, gets the ball into his outside arm and backs himself to get outside Adams, who is no slouch, then really good control to stretch and dot it down.

“Conway’s role is more around chasing some of those kicks from Jamison Gibson-Park down the right side. He’s encouraged to work hard off the ball and get upfield to support breaks but maybe not roaming quite so much infield and not as a distributor.

“That balance is working really well for Ireland at the moment.”

On today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra, Eoin and Murray broke down Ireland’s win, discussed France’s bonus-point victory over Italy, and analysed England’s opening-round defeat to Scotland.

The lads also spoke about a promising performance from the Ireland U20s in their hammering of Wales.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other shows on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting weekly newsletters and access to our lively member-only Whatsapp groups.

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