Steve Hansen's jibe stuns Mike Harris
All Black gripes about Australia poaching their players have been met with both astonishment and wry grins.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is fuming about Kiwis being "pinched", after Auckland product Mike Harris kicked the Wallabies to a surprise 18-18 test draw in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Hansen called for the Australian Rugby Union to get its house in order and stop stealing players, after he was asked if Harris' display embarrassed the NZRU's talent identification system.
"It's time you start developing your players in your own country," he responded.
A stunned Harris returned serve yesterday by hinting at hypocrisy from the All Blacks who have consistently selected Pacific Islanders in the past, and also played former Australian under-21 halfback Steve Devine a decade ago.
"I was a bit surprised by Steve's comments," the Harris, 24, said. "It's been going on for as long as rugby has been professional, and maybe even further back as well."
Harris was not the only former New Zealand underage player in the Wallabies team at Suncorp Stadium as prop Sekope Kepu also defected after failing to crack a Super Rugby start.
It was Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie who sparked the conversion of both, and he believes New Zealand's rugby strength will continue to see overlooked aspiring products cross the ditch.
"They've got a lot of players," McKenzie said.
"They've probably got too many players in some positions."
A five-eighth or inside centre, Harris was a member of the Blues wider training group while Sydney-born, south Auckland-raised Kepu was outside the Chiefs' contracted-player list.
McKenzie watched with more than pride when Harris kicked five penalties from five attempts, and also made a fine fist of fullback against the All Blacks.
"I did have a bit of a giggle when he was kicking goal after goal - just as well we brought him over," he said. "When I first spoke to Mike he was in the wider training group for the Blues, he wasn't on the fast-track to anywhere," he said.
"He had three guys in front of him to play Super Rugby. It's worked out well for him," McKenzie said.
Eligible to play for the Wallabies through an Australian-born grandmother, Harris said he had no regrets.
"As an aspiring rugby player, you always want to be playing at the next level and if New Zealand had offered me a Super Rugby jersey things might have been different," he said.
"I'm very thankful to get the chance to play for the Reds and Wallabies."