Hansen's tragedy that inspired success
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has spoken of the personal tragedy that helped drive him to Rugby World Cup success.
Hansen was at the 2007 Rugby World Cup when his mother Lauriss was hospitalised with cancer. Hansen rushed home midway through the tournament, only to be persuaded to return by his mother, who wanted him to bring the Cup home; the All Blacks having not won the trophy since 1987.
The All Blacks’ resulting shock defeat to France in the quarterfinal made things tougher for the then-assistant coach, and he told WalesOnline that Lauriss’ message stayed with him as a major motivator after she passed away the following year.
“Personally, my mother had died in the January following the 2007 tournament,” Hansen told WalesOnline.
“She had said ‘bring the World Cup home’ and, when you don’t do that, you feel a sense of not having done the job.
“So, for me, when we did it in 2011, it was like ‘Well there you go mum, that’s the job’s been done, tick’.”
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It wasn’t the only World Cup Hansen won, taking over as head coach to win the 2015 title, but he says the experiences involved in triumphing were notably different.
“There was a sense of relief in 2011. We all had different reasons to feel that.
“For the nation it was, ‘well, we’ve got that monkey off our back. They can’t tell us we are chokers anymore.’
“As a nation, we had wanted to win it so badly.
“For Graham [Henry], who was put under an enormous amount of pressure, he would have had his own feelings of tick, job done.
“When we did it in 2015, that campaign couldn’t have gone any better. Everything just seemed to fall into place and it was just really satisfying, as opposed to relief.”
Hansen then realised just how fortunate – and fleeting – that experience was in 2019, when, in his final World Cup as All Blacks coach, they finished third after a semifinal defeat to England.
“The funny thing about World Cups – and New Zealand has learned this more than any other team – is you’ve got to get it right or you don’t get the opportunity.
“In the one just gone, we played really good rugby, bar for one game, and unfortunately that one game says ‘right, you don’t get a second chance’.
“And England, who played so tremendously well against us, couldn’t back it up in the final.
“They are not easy to win World Cups. In a series, you can drop a game and come back and win the next two and win the series. People don’t remember the one you lose.
“But in a World Cup, if you lose one people remember it because it means you don’t normally win the tournament.”
WalesOnline & @RugbyPass