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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

'They're the number one team in the world now' - All Blacks boss on Ireland

Steve Hansen labelled Joe Schmidt’s team as favourites for the World Cup.

STEVE HANSEN STARTED by congratulating Ireland on their deserved win, but he was soon back to stirring the pot in familiar fashion.

Ireland, the All Blacks head coach says, are now the top team in the world and favourites for next year’s World Cup after their 16-9 victory over his team.

“I said at the beginning of the week that this is the two best sides in the world playing each other,” said Hansen post-match, “so as of now they’re the number one team in the world.

“So I guess they are favourites.”

Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen before the game Hansen with Joe Schmidt pre-match. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

When later asked about who the main contenders for the World Cup would be next year, Hansen again labelled Ireland as favourites.

“Who do Ireland see as their main challengers? They’re the favourites,” said the All Blacks coach.

“We’ll be one, England will be another, Australia, Wales, South Africa, Argentina. There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before this World Cup starts. A lot can happen, injuries, brainwaves that mean coaches get sacked.

“What we know is that Ireland are going to go there reasonably confident and you should because you’ve got a good side. New Zealanders can go there reasonably confident because we’ve got a good side. 

“Isn’t it wonderful for world rugby that no one knows who’s going to win the World Cup?”

Unsurprisingly, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt had little time for Hansen’s labelling of his team as favourites.

“The World Cup? In 11 months’ time?” said Schmidt.

“We’ve got to work hard in the next week to make sure we’re ready for the USA.

“People will postulate about who’s where and who’s favourite and it’s a nebulous thing for us because all we can tangibly control is our preparation and then go out and try to work hard and get a performance.”

Steve Hansen dejected after the game The All Blacks coach after his side's defeat. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

New Zealand boss Hansen pointed to New Zealand missing chances when they got behind Ireland as key to their defeat, while he also bemoaned the number of penalties his side gave up in the opening half.

But he had plenty of praise for Ireland too.

“I’d like to congratulate Ireland,” said Hansen. “I thought they played outstandingly well and deserved the win.

“They took the opportunities that they got, there weren’t a lot in the game but they took theirs and we didn’t take ours. I thought our discipline in the first half let us down a wee bit too.

“In saying that, I’m very proud of our team too. They showed a lot of courage and heart and you couldn’t knock the effort, even if the execution wasn’t as good as we would have liked.

“We got beaten by a better team.”

Hansen was photographed handing what looked like a note to Schmidt before the game at the Aviva Stadium, but he revealed it was actually payment for some match tickets.

“It was €760, we had a bet,” joked Hansen. 

“No, no, not really, but it was €760 because I bought some tickets and he was the only bloke I could get some tickets off. When you buy them, you’ve got to pay for them so I said I’d get it out of the way early. There was no note other than that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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