New Zealand rugby coach Steve Hansen
Men At Work

Hansen snipes at Cheika as Bledisloe mind games rumble on

The war of words between Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika shows no sign of abating less than a week away from their Bledisloe Cup opener.

STEVE HANSEN HAS instructed Michael Cheika to focus on his own side as the All Blacks and the Wallabies finalise preparations for their Bledisloe Cup clash.

Australia coach Cheika spoke this week of the tough selection issues facing his New Zealand counterpart, with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett competing to replace Dan Carter in the All Blacks’ number 10 jersey.

Hansen, whose claims that Cheika was “bullied” by England’s Eddie Jones  in their 3-0 series defeat to the Six Nations champions in June began a war of words between the coaches, was in no mood to allow the Australia boss’ words go unnoticed when touching down in Sydney ahead of their Rugby Championship opener at ANZ Stadium next Saturday.

“It’s good of the Australian coach to start picking our team,” Hansen said. “I’d say he’s got enough problems of his own, probably.

“But we’ll pick ours and he can pick his and he’ll have a lot to say, no doubt.”

Hansen has called prop Kane Hames and loose forward Matt Todd into his squad as cover for Joe Moody and Sam Cane.

He expects a tough test against the Wallabies, who are boosted by France-based Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper returning to the national team, as well as coaching from former All Blacks skills guru Mick Byrne.

“They’ve brought a lot of people back from the northern hemisphere, so that gives them a bit more experience and their back three will be good under the high ball,” Hansen said.

“With Mick there they’ll have a better kicking game I’m sure, but you can’t change it too much.

“There’s a natural way Australia play, so I’m assuming they will stick to what they do.”

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