- Publish Date
- Saturday, 16 September 2023, 2:06PM
By Will Toogood
Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen isn’t a fan of the letter-of-the-law approach to refereeing at this World Cup.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave, Hansen drew attention to Luke Pearce and the television officials for what he described as “nitpicking”.
Hansen points to an early disallowed try for the All Blacks as Ofa Tuʻungafasi was judged to be offside at a lineout and impeding players coming through to contest.
“I felt it was a bit on the nitpicking side, but in a lot of situations, you can find a penalty if you want to. Is there a chance the officials are just going a little too far and it will really drag the game into a mire?”
Ethan de Groot’s late red card for a reckless shoulder-to-head contact is an obvious talking point to emerge from the game, Hansen told Waldegrave he doesn’t feel cards are the best way to maximise player safety.
“I think we have been dishing out red cards out all over the place and I’m not sure that’s the answer. I think it’s the bottom of the cliff rather than the top of the cliff. We’ve got to spend more money, more time, more expertise on teaching people how to tackle better.”
He says de Groot didn’t anticipate the ball carrier dropping his head and ended up catching him high. Theorising it’s time to put more onus on the ball carrier for taking care of their own safety.
“There’s some real changes we need to make, too. When in our game do we make the ball carrier responsible for his own safety and lowering his head into the tackle? It’s spoiling the games, I think.”
Hansen said the All Blacks wanted to see improvement in their scrum and their driving mall, as well as their defence of the latter.
“I think two ticks there.”
Hansen said the men in black had wanted to improve on their kicking, an area of their game that had been criticised after their opening match defeat to France.
“The kicks they made were pretty much spot on. It wasn’t willy-nilly kicking. It was kicking for a purpose and kicking for space.”
Again, you can give them a tick there.
Third, he’d observed in training this week that they’d wanted to build confidence.
“The tournament’s all about momentum and they came into it with a bit of a confidence killer in London and then losing the first game, which is never easy for an All Black team to lose. So getting back onto the bike and having a good hit out and getting people game time. I think there’s a lot of things in the game they’ll go away happy about.”
Critics would be quick to point out the nature of Namibia’s opposition, ranked 21st in the world, but Hansen says the All Blacks will have been focused on themselves.
“No, they wouldn’t look at the opposition at all. They’ll look at the things they set for themselves to do and wanted to do. They’ve defended well, they kept the scoreboard down to zero apart from the penalty, so no tries. They did drive well and they did scrum well. So they were big things.”
World Cups are about building week to week, game to game - and Hansen knows this better than most. Giving the squad game time to get accustomed to the conditions as well as match fitness is something the two-time Cup-winning coach says is invaluable.
“When you think about a large part of the squad against France had their second game in eight weeks. It’s not enough if you’re going into a quarter-final like that.”
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission
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