Hansen's cheeky dig at Wales as NZ bring in veterans
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: New Zealand coach Steve Hansen aimed a cheeky dig at Wales on Wednesday when he said this week’s third-place play-off would be like a Final for the Six Nations champions.
Hansen, who steps down following Friday’s game in Tokyo after seven years in the All Blacks hot seat, admitted he was still feeling the effects of New Zealand’s “car crash” semifinal defeat by England as he made seven changes to his side.
“A lot of people might be saying there’s not a lot on it and they could throw the ball around,” he said.
“I think there is a lot on it. For them it would be like winning the World Cup if they win this one, maybe.”
Hansen, whose All Blacks were chasing an unprecedented third successive world title in Japan, compared last weekend’s stinging 7-19 defeat by England – their first World Cup loss in 12 years – to losing a loved one.
“This is the first time I’ve had to do this,” said Hansen ahead of a bronze medal game that will offer little consolation to the All Blacks, who have won 31 of their 34 meetings with Wales, last losing in 1953.
“They [England] played better than us. You can talk about it all you like but you only know what it’s like when you suffer it.
“I don’t want to compare rugby to death but it’s like someone losing a family member to a car crash.”
Hansen, however, brought in Ben Smith, a bit-part player at this World Cup, on the right wing with Rieko Ioane on the left, while Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty make up a formidable centre combo.
He stuck with his first-choice halfback combination of Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith.
However, Dane Coles replaces Codie Taylor at hooker, Sam Cane returns at openside flank and Shannon Frizell comes in at blindside for Scott Barrett, who resumes his more accustomed role in the second row.
Presenting your final All Blacks team of 2019.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 30, 2019
‘Weird few days’
“It’s a good backline,” said Hansen, whose side features six players who started the 2015 World Cup Final.
“You’re pretty lucky if you can sub Goodhue and Lienert-Brown with SBW and Crotty, and Reece and Bridge with Ben Smith and Rieko.”
No.8 Kieran Read is set to captain the All Blacks for the 52nd and last time, overtaking former hooker Sean Fitzpatrick in second place on the all-time list behind Richie McCaw.
“It’s been a weird few days but our focus is on Wales and a performance we can be proud of,” said the skipper, whose 34th birthday was gatecrashed in rude fashion by England last Saturday.
“I’ve had my time in the jersey and it’s time for someone else to step in. It’s hard but I’ve known for a couple of years – the mind is willing but the body is saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’.”
Hansen will bow out after 107 matches in charge, with only 10 defeats to date.
His successes include the 2015 World Cup, six Rugby Championships and a perfect eight from eight in the Bledisloe Cup, the annual series against Australia.
“I don’t want to go into what I’m going to miss,” said Hansen, who was coach of Wales the last time the teams faced each other at the World Cup, in 2003. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team.”
Looking ahead to Friday, he added: “We have to get on with it and hopefully show last week was a blip.”
New Zealand: 15Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Date: Friday, November 1
Venue: Tokyo Stadium
Kick-off: 18.00 (09.00 GMT; 09.00 UK & Ireland time; 22.00 NZ time)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Pascal Gaüzère (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)