No room to get gaa-gaa emotional over potential All Blacks farewell – Hansen
Steve Hansen insists will not let emotion cloud New Zealand’s preparations for Saturday’s showdown with Ireland despite the potential for it to be his final game in charge.
The back-to-back World Cup winners face Joe Schmidt’s men in Tokyo as the knock-out stages of this year’s competition get under way.
Like Schmidt and his Irish post, Hansen has already announced he will be standing down after the tournament following seven glory-filled years in All Blacks’ top job.
His side remain the overwhelming favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup but up against an Ireland side who have won two of their last three meetings, Hansen knows he could be looking at his final few days in a role he cherishes.
The 60-year-old, however, says the time for reflection will come once his team’s fate has been dealt.
He said: “It’ll affect me when it’s finished. You haven’t got any room to get gaa-gaa emotional. You’re here to do a job.
“The team is bigger than the individual and it always has been.
“The jersey and legacy of the jersey demands you to be there giving 100 per cent of what you have. So you don’t have time to think about yourself.
“When the tournament is over and whenever that is, that’s when you step back and have a reflection and have a think about what’s next and what life will be like. But at the moment it’s not even in your mind.”
Hansen has sprung a few surprises with his team selection for the match at the Tokyo Stadium, most notably selecting Brodie Retallick despite the Chiefs lock having just 30 minutes of this year’s World Cup action under his belt.
But Hansen insists the 78-cap veteran is ready to go.
“Brodie is a bit of a freak when it comes to fitness. He’s got a big motor. He’s got the ability to play after long or short breaks, he has put the work in,” he said.
“There’s no question mark about that. It’s all about how long we have to, or want to play him.
“We are very fortunate that we have got a lad called Scott Barrett who is a very good player in his own right so we have the ability to inject some fresh legs into the game.
“Those fresh legs could be the difference makers. We are very fortunate with our bench. It’s strong and has been for a long time. When you look at that experience on the bench it does give you a bit of confidence.”
Nigel Owens will be the man in charge of Saturday’s clash and Hansen is content with the Welshman’s appointment as referee.
“You have to watch out for his sense of humour – he’s pretty good with the one-liners,” joked the All Blacks head coach.
“I think you’re focusing on the wrong things if you’re worrying about the referee.
“He has his idiosyncrasies. We know about them, Ireland know them but what I like about Nigel is that he has shown over the years that he is good under pressure. This will be a big-pressure game and we’re happy we have got him for this occasion. We will adapt and adjust as we go.
“Ireland are tenacious. They play a structured game that they know they’re good at. They don’t wander too far off the script and they’re not a team that give you a lot of opportunities through mistakes and they’re pretty good at keeping the ball.
“When they kick it they kick it to put pressure on your rather than give you a free shot so you just have to adapt and adjust with what is happening in the game. We have made a lot of changes since we last played them, so we’ll see how it goes.”