Steve Hansen's 'defection' to Wallabies leaves NZ shell-shocked before World Cup

The legendary All Blacks coach has been doing some work with Eddie Jones in Wallabies camp.

Steve Hansen during his time with the All Blacks.
All Blacks legend Steve Hansen has been in Wallabies camp ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Image: Getty

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his disbelief that legendary All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is working with the Wallabies ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Hansen has been spotted in Wallabies camp in recent days, but played down the 'defection' and said he's just helping out his mate Eddie Jones and will be gone by the end of the week.

But the shockwave of Hansen's move has clearly resonated back in Wellington, with Hipkins left gobsmacked by the news. When asked by AAP what Hansen's punishment should be, Hipkins exclaimed, "We should cancel his citizenship", before laughing and quickly adding, "That's a joke just to be very clear".

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All Blacks player Dane Coles spoke for the majority of New Zealand after being informed of Hansen's role with the Wallabies on Tuesday. "Shag what are you up to?," the hooker said, referring to Hansen's nickname. "It hurts a little bit, to be fair. I'm actually gob-smacked ... he's a bit of an icon in the All Blacks setup.

"I'm actually a bit speechless. A bit disappointing but we can't do much about that. He’s a great man. He’s obviously not in our environment at the moment.

"I suppose he can help out Eddie. Hopefully, he doesn’t tell Eddie all our secrets. I think he’ll be respectful, that’s the main thing."

Coles was the All Blacks' starting hooker under Hansen in the 2015 World Cup, a tournament in which they beat the Wallabies in the final for their third and most-recent title. All Blacks teammate Ardie Savea said: “Everyone’s got to do what they have got to do. Good on him.”

Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen.
Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen before a Barbarians game against the World XV. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Steve Hansen defends short-term role with Wallabies

Hansen jumped on the phone to Kiwi radio station Newstalk ZB to set the record straight on Tuesday. "I'd just like to put everybody's mind at rest that I haven't joined the Wallabies for the Rugby World Cup," he said.

"I'm here for about three or four days at the request of Eddie, a good mate of mine, just to give him some feedback on what he's doing. Rugby is bigger than all of us, so (I'm) happy to do that."

Hansen said he wasn't being paid for the appearance in Paris this week - where the Wallabies are preparing for their final World Cup warm-up game against France this weekend. Hansen said he was impressed by what he's seen in Wallabies camp, despite the fact they haven't won a game during Jones' second tenure as Australia coach.

"Australia are looking good actually," he said. "They're just a young side that are coming together and they've got a coach that wants them to work hard and be better. I think they're buying into that."

France and Ireland are the early favourites to win the World Cup, but Hansen has raised doubts over both front-runners. The legendary coach questioned Ireland's ability to go deep in the tournament given they have never been past the quarter-finals before, and said France would find it hard to replace freshly injured five-eighth Romain Ntamack.

The 64-year-old was full of praise for for the All Blacks, who face South Africa this weekend off the back of an unbeaten 2023. "They're going great. They're exactly where they want to be," Hansen said. "They know how they want to play (and) they're confident in each other."

with AAP

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