All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has lifted the lid further on his uneasy relationship with Wallabies rival Robbie Deans, questioning whether Deans actually wanted the All Blacks job after the 2007 World Cup and claiming he wanted to be portrayed as "the martyr" when he didn't get it.
"If you want my honest opinion, I don't think Robbie wanted it [the All Blacks job] anyway," Hansen told The Weight of a Nation, a candid two-hour documentary on the story behind the 2011 World Cup that screened on Sunday night. "I think Robbie had already signed for Australia.
"I think he just went through the motions and wanted to be the martyr if he didn't get it, so he wins on both sides of the table.
"That's how I felt about it because you don't go to a [New Zealand Rugby Union] selection meeting and when asked, 'Who is going to be your running mates?' - knowing that the opposition [Sir Graham Henry] has got two pretty good candidates [Hansen and Wayne Smith] behind him - with a wishy washy answer. He did.
"And that's why he lost the job, from my understanding. So, did he really want the job?"
The reappointment of Henry, Hansen and Smith - and the issue of Deans' choice of assistants - has long been a subject of conjecture, with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw also addressing the issue in his book, The Open Side, earlier this year.
McCaw, who was coached by Deans at the Crusaders and by Henry, Hansen and Smith at national level, formed the opinion that none of the candidates thought they were going to get the job, a position reinforced by Henry and Smith in The Weight of a Nation.
"In our gut, we probably thought that Robbie would get the job," said current Chiefs assistant coach Smith. "And I don't think any of us would have begrudged that, because of his record and how well he had done.
"I still remember - Steve and I didn't have to go to the interview and 'Ted' [Henry] did - the phone went that evening and it was Ted saying, 'we're buggered mate'. And I said, 'oh well, Ted, at least we had a crack at it and he said, 'Oh yeh but the interview didn't go well and I think we're buggered'."
Henry said he was equally as surprised at getting a second chance. "I didn't think I'd get the job," he said.
"I thought they'd appoint Robbie. I went down to the interview in Wellington, had the interview, didn't do the interview well . . . got too emotional."
Henry also revealed that, even after the reappointment, he thought his hold on the job was fragile after Deans coached the Wallabies to a comprehensive 34-19 victory against the All Blacks in Sydney in 2008 - the first of their many duels at Test level.
"We got beaten by Robbie," Henry said. "But that's when people get tight and get together and get totally focused and do the business. And we had to do the business at Eden Park the week after Sydney, otherwise I think we would have gone."
The All Blacks won that match 39-10, shoring up Henry's position and beginning a period of frustration for Deans and the Wallabies.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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