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'He keeps telling us he's got something up his sleeve other than his arm'

Steve Hansen was in chirpy form after the All Blacks’ 12-try win over Samoa.

Murray Kinsella reports from Eden Park, Auckland

THE MASTER OF the press conference was at it once again after his All Blacks side ran 12 tries past Samoa in their warm-up for the three-Test series against the Lions.

Steve Hansen is never anything less than entertaining in these settings – such a stark contrast to so many other coaches.

He is witty, prepared, calm and usually totally in control, and he took this opportunity to have a few snipes at Warren Gatland once again.

Steve Hansen Hansen was in flying form after the All Blacks' win. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

The Lions boss has repeatedly said that he is holding back selection combinations and tactics on this tour of New Zealand in an effort to surprise the All Blacks in the Test series, but Hansen piled the pressure on tonight in Auckland.

The Lions take on a strong Maori All Blacks side tomorrow night in Rotorua, and Hansen is not convinced there will be any great surprises.

“Do I expect them to do something different tomorrow night?” said Hansen. “Well he 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 starting to run out of time to get it practice, so…

“I’ve always said that once you have a style as a coach you usually stick with it, so it’s going to be a big move if he changes. We’ll wait and see. I look forward to it.

“We’re sitting here, we’re finished for the weekend and we’ve come out with no injuries, and we get to sit down and get really excited about what’s ahead of us, which is the Lions.

“You wait 12 years for them to come around, so you don’t want to miss it. We get to watch them tomorrow night against the Maori side, and they’ll throw the kitchen sink at them so it will be a big game for them again.

“Then all the banter is out of the way, we’re into it and I can’t wait.”

Warren Gatland Gatland says he has held things back for the All Blacks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Hansen’s sense was that Gatland had been attempting to hold back a Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell combination at 10 and 12 for the Tests.

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The Englishman is now a big doubt to be fit for the first Test after suffering a quad strain in training, but Hansen says the All Blacks had anticipated him featuring in the midfield.

“Well he’s injured at the moment and I think he’d be a massive loss,” said Hansen. “He’s a world-class player and right up there.

“Where do I think he’ll play? Probably at 12. He [Gatland] has said he’s got something else up his sleeve other than his arm and that might be one of them.

They went to a lot of trouble when Jonathan Davies went off to put him [Farrell] at centre, unless Ben [Te'o] can’t play 12, I’m not sure.

“It doesn’t matter where he plays, he’s a good player and we just have to deal with whatever the Lions decide to do with their selections. But he’s a world-class player and there’s a lot of respect for him in our group.”

Finally, asked how he had known about the Lions’ plans to call up an additional five to six players before the tourists had even announced any such plans, Hansen fired off another shot.

“If I ask you who your informant is, do you let me know? You had a go, good work,” said Hansen.

Owen Farrell Farrell is carrying a quad injury. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Do I think it’s a good move? He clearly wants to bring them in so he can have two squads. Asking guys to play Test matches and then a midweek game is tough, so it’s probably a smart play.”

A moment’s silence, another journalist begins to ask the next question and Hansen jumps back in for the final dig…

“It’s about as many as Clive [Woodward] brought in now. Although he was probably proven right, wasn’t he? He should have brought them in the beginning.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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