Hurt after loss, Hansen livid at question of NZ's commitment
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Already hurting after the All Blacks' unbeaten streak at the Rugby World Cup was upended by England, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was livid when the commitment of his players was called into question.
Hansen had congratulated England and its Australian coach Eddie Jones after the 19-7 win and accepted that his two-time defending champions were upstaged by a better team on Saturday.
But his mood darkened when All Blacks captain Kieran Read was asked if the team turned up with the right attitude. After waiting for Read to finish his answer, Hansen lined up to deliver a one-two-three combination.
"I'd just like to clear that up, too. I think it's quite a disrespectful question," Hansen said. "To suggest that the All Blacks turned up not being hungry. They're desperate to win the game. Because I'm asking at halftime to get hungrier, doesn't mean to say they've turned up not hungry. There's a big difference."
To follow it up, he added: "Do you want to spend some time outside, I'll give you a rugby education on that one."
And to close: "That's a pretty average question," Hansen said, after noting the All Blacks' talents and past successes.
Hansen, who is stepping down as All Blacks coach after this World Cup to work in Japan, has an outstanding record as New Zealand coach. After serving apprenticeships in 2007 and 2011 — two completely contrasting campaigns — he replaced Graham Henry and led New Zealand on its successful title defense in 2015.
He went into Saturday's game at International Stadium in Yokohama with 92 wins and nine losses in 105 test matches.
"You had two very good sides going at each other and the team that took the game won the game," Hansen said. "We have no regrets, very proud of the All Blacks.
"Sometimes sport is not fair but tonight it is and wish them all the best. We are going to have to pick ourselves up and play the losers from tomorrow (Wales or South Africa) and that's exciting and gives us the chance to see off the tournament in a positive note."
An upset quarterfinal loss to France in 2007 triggered a major overhaul that ultimately led New Zealand to winning the title at home four years later and in England in 2015. They were aiming to be the first team to win three titles, and the first to reach five finals.
"No loss is easy to take," Hansen said, when asked to compare New Zealand's two defeats, 12 years apart. "The only reason it's slightly better is that it was semis rather than quarters. The boys are desperately hurting as are the management.
"But you have to put your big boys pants on and stand up and be counted. That adversity will feed a lot more All Blacks teams in the future so find one positive out of it."
It was a downer for captain Read's 34th birthday. The veterans in the New Zealand pack tried to chase the game late, but England kept the scoreboard ticking over with three second-half penalties after leading 10-0 at the break. It was just the second time New Zealand had been held scoreless in the first half of a World Cup game — the first was in a semifinal loss to Australia in '91.
Sam Whitelock was also playing his third World Cup and had never lost a game at the tournament. But even with that experience, the 31-year-old lock lost control when he shoved England captain Owen Farrell in the 67th minute after New Zealand had been awarded a penalty. Referee Nigel Owens reversed the penalty and gave it to England and, at 16-7, it was another letdown for the All Blacks.
"We gave as much as we had and today we came up short," Read said. "We are extremely disappointed by that, and it's hard to put things into words.
"The guys absolutely turned up with as much as we could bring and we fell short, but we will pick ourselves up."