Steve Hansen not camouflaging his emotions

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:05 13/06/2014
STEVE HANSEN: ‘‘Our skill sets were very poor, probably the poorest they have ever been.’’
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
STEVE HANSEN: ‘‘Our skill sets were very poor, probably the poorest they have ever been.’’

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If only the walls inside Steve Hansen's war room could talk. Because they might have some colourful tales about how he verbalised his reaction to last weekend's error-ridden performance against England.

Ben Smith, who - barring a calamitous performance in tomorrow night's second test - is set to remain at fullback for the final match in Hamilton because of Israel Dagg's knee injury, acknowledged All Blacks coach Hansen hadn't been camouflaging his emotions.

''He's been, obviously like us, really disappointed with the way we played on Saturday - so, yeah, he's looking forward to this weekend just as much as we are,'' Smith said.

Read between the lines of that statement and you sense Hansen's mood must have been dark.

When reviewing matches the backs and forwards sometimes split into different groups, while Hansen and his assistants take turns to deliver the messages.

But in Dunedin this week the squad stuck together for their honesty session and Smith confirmed Hansen took centre stage.

Exactly what was said remains under wraps but it doesn't require a wild imagination to understand the tone it was delivered in.

In public Hansen refused to sugar coat that effort with faint praise.

''Our skill sets were very poor, probably the poorest they have ever been,'' he fumed.

''The guys themselves were disappointed in the way they played; we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we did manage to win the test but at the time they are very proud people who want to play a game they can all be proud of.

''Last week they weren't proud of their performance.''

Smith said Hansen has never been reticent about lobbing verbal grenades at training and indicated that hadn't changed this week.

''He's a pretty calm character, normally, and if there is a word to be said he will say it. Yeah, he's been the same old Shag,'' he laughed.

Hansen said Dagg's patella tendon injury, which he has carried for much of the Super Rugby season, was affecting his kicking game and ability to launch in the air.

''It's not going to come right in a week so, more than likely, he won't play next week.''

The Highlanders' Patrick Osborne, who has been training with the squad this week, will join the squad in Hamilton if Dagg is unfit.

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