The All Blacks may be top of the rankings but according to their head coach, Steve Hansen, Ireland have overtaken them and become the best team in the world. After Ireland's 16-9 win in Dublin, Hansen explained: “What it does do is this: I said this at ...
Ireland rugby union team
• ‘As of now they are the No 1 team in the world,’ says coach• Ireland’s Joe Schmidt laughs off compliment from Hansen
The Ireland try-scorer, Jacob Stockdale (centre), celebrates with teammates after the victory against New Zealand. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
The All Blacks may be top of the rankings but according to their head coach, Steve Hansen, Ireland have overtaken them and become the best team in the world. After Ireland’s 16-9 win in Dublin, Hansen explained: “What it does do is this: I said this at the beginning of the week that these are the two best sides in the world playing each other. So as of now they are the No 1 team in the world.” Hansen said that he also felt Ireland were now favourites to win next year’s World Cup in Japan, too.
Hansen’s compatriot Joe Schmidt was not about to fall into that trap. “The World Cup? In 11 months’ time? We’ve got to work hard in the next week to make sure we’re ready for the USA,” the Ireland head coach said. “Steve’s probably enjoying a little bit of banter.
“We were at home, they were on the back of a long series of games where they’ve travelled around the world a number of times, and I thought the crowd were phenomenal tonight. So, you know, that’s a lot of things stacked in our favour. So we’ll take tonight and we’ll leave the World Cup for 11 months’ time.”
At the same time, Hansen promised that his team would improve because of this defeat. “It will be very useful, no doubt about that, this team hasn’t suffered much in the last three years.” He pointedly added: “There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before the World Cup. A lot can happen.
“Injuries, brainwaves, sacked coaches, new coaches … what we do know is that Ireland are going to go there reasonably confident and they should be, I think New Zealand will go there feeling confident too.”
Hansen described how painful the loss was. “You don’t win as many rugby matches as this All Black team has and it not hurt when you get beaten, regardless of who the opposition is and how well you play.” The All Black changing room, he said, “is very quiet, and very sombre. People are gutted. And that’s the way it should be. That’s how you should feel when you get beaten.”
He was full of praise for Ireland – “They played outstandingly well and deserved to win, they took their chances and we didn’t take ours” – and, refreshingly, he refused to criticise any of the decisions made by the English referee, Wayne Barnes. “I’m not going to moan about the referee, not the right day to be doing that, best time to moan about the referee is when you’ve won.” Some of the penalties his team had conceded, he admitted, “were just dumb”.
Looking beyond next year’s World Cup, no doubt the win will also increase speculation that Schmidt, 53, might one day take over from the 59-year-old Hansen as the All Blacks’ head coach. While Schmidt did not touch on that directly, he did admit that he has “complicated” feelings about coaching a team against his native country. “I’m 100% an All Black supporter when they’re playing anyone but us, just because that’s where my roots are,” he said. “At the same time I work with an incredibly committed bunch of men who really go out and earn what they get. So there’s no real mixed emotion about it.
“But it is one of those things that I suppose it does make it a little bit more complicated, particularly for me. But at the same time I’m incredibly proud of the group of Irish players who went out there and did what they did tonight. It was an incredibly collective and hard-earned win and I’m really proud of it.”
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