Ireland prop gives All Blacks 'haka' motivation
Steve Hansen would have been chuckling into his morning coffee when he picked up the paper on test eve here and read the headline: "I hate the haka - Healy".
That's the All Blacks coach's team talk written for him, there in print on the back page of the Irish Independent that his players, on the verge of their tilt at rugby history at the Aviva Stadium in the early hours of Monday (NZ time), would no doubt have all read.
In what was an extraordinary admission from Ireland's starting loosehead prop Cian Healy, the British and Irish Lion has told the paper he not only "hates" the All Blacks' traditional pre-test haka but that he can't understand why they're allowed to perform it.
The All Blacks do no take kind to people, opponents especially, disrespecting their haka. They won't make a big fuss of it, but you can bet they would have noted Healy's comments and stored them away in their motivational bank.
The 26-year-old prop told the Independent his views were strictly personal, but he left no room for interpretation.
"It's just a haka," said Healy.
"It's something I loved when I was a kid and something I hate now. People treat it in different ways, but it's going to be there so you have to just deal with it.
"It's just you have to stand against it. We don't play our two anthems in different countries.
"I don't draw inspiration from it. I think they are entitled to do it, it's part of their history and I'm certainly not saying they shouldn't.
"But it's just how I treat it myself."
Healy is clearly a provocative type as he also told reporters in Dublin that he doesn't like to call this week's opponents the All Blacks because he doesn't believe in adding to the "myth" of the world's No 1 team.
"I don't really like putting them on a pedestal or any of that," said Healy.
"I constantly do call them New Zealand in my head, because I don't like the name the All Blacks.
"It's something that I don't like putting any team on a pedestal - when you do that you find yourself below them already without anyone else's mark.
"So that's my way of going about it and thinking about it."
Healy's attitude contrasts sharply with the almost reverential tone adopted by Ireland's New Zealand-born coach Joe Schmidt before the test.
Schmidt could not stop talking about the awe-inspiring attributes of the All Blacks as they've gone a perfect 13-from-13 through their season so far - requiring just victory over Ireland at the Aviva to complete the professional era's first perfect test season.
"What the All Blacks have achieved over so many generations is phenomenal, what they've achieved this year is phenomenal," said Schmidt.
"They have all that momentum and confidence and feel very much open to expressing themselves on the field. You see it in the manner in which they play - it's fantastic to watch, and it's really an expression of what they feel about the game."
Hansen, meanwhile, emphasised at his final press conference that the All Blacks were not paying much attention to all the talk of the perfect season.
"On reflection it will mean a lot, but at the moment's it's not really a focus," he said.
"We haven't been that satisfied with ourselves in either the England or France games and the whole focus this week is on preparing genuinely to we can go out and perform to the standard we can be proud of."
Hansen said he was confident the experienced members of his squad would lead the "one mind, one focus" approach, reminded no doubt by their dramatic tumble at the final hurdle last year at Twickenham.
Hansen said the team's drive continues to be "to seek perfection" and he shrugged off the pressure of the looming record, and of sustaining the All Blacks' unbeaten record against Ireland.
"There's an amazing amount of pressure on this team all the time, and the expectation is not only that they win, but play very well - and that's just from the fans. We wouldn't have it any other way."
Hansen has only one slight concern heading into the test, having to check the fitness of wing Julian Savea after he twisted a knee at the team's Friday training hitout. That will be done at today's Captain's Run.
The big positive for the All Blacks coach: he does not have to motivate his men for this season finale. The record, the drive to finish on a high and, no doubt, Healy's inflammatory comments will all do that for him.