- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 8:43AM
Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen says England and Australia have an ‘easy ride’ at the Rugby World Cup this year but isn’t picking them among contenders to win the tournament.
Hansen is coaching the World XV against Eddie Jones’s Barbarians side at Twickenham on Monday NZT.
England are in the pool D with Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile and if they top the group would face Wales, Fiji or Australia in the quarter-finals, avoiding the likes of Ireland, France, South Africa and the All Blacks until the semifinal stage.
“If you are Australia or England at the moment, you are rubbing your hands, aren’t you? You are going to get an easy ride in if you do things right,” said Hansen.
Hansen, who coached the All Blacks to World Cup glory in 2015, said despite the easier run into the semifinals, he wasn’t picking Australia or England to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy.
“I think [Australia] are a big show. I think England are a show for the same reason. They’re on that side of the pool and they’re being left alone while the big guys all knock themselves out. If you ask me who was capable of winning it, I think probably France, Ireland, the All Blacks, and South Africa – one of those four.”
Hansen also responded to the Rugby Football Union’s decision to fly the ‘Pride Progress’ flag at Twickenham in support of the LGBTQ+ community after the selection of Israel Folau for the World XV side.
Folau saw his contract with the Wallabies terminated in 2019 after a controversial religious posting on social media when he said that gay people would go to hell “unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”.
“I think [the flying of the flag] is great,” said Hansen. “It’s a consequence [of Folau’s selection] and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it, I think it’s great. There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing so whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way I think that’s good. They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it.
“He’s a very good rugby player. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that. However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s beliefs and views are not ours. And [we] don’t agree with them. But he’s a rugby player first and foremost and he’s been sanctioned, those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick and that’s what I’ve done.”
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission
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