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OPINION: It is curious that Steve Hansen has not received the hailstorm of ordure that usually passes through New Zealand when a coach is defeated at the World Cup. Perhaps the country has become more tolerant and thoughtful. Or perhaps Hansen has become so unexpectedly good at putting on a gracious public face, that people have not noticed how badly he screwed up.
In the last couple of weeks I had wondered if Hansen was Jacinda Ardern in an elaborate disguise, as he passed through Japan with almost complete diplomatic immunity. The winning of one World Cup seemed to have insured the man against the usual mob lynching.
That, of course, is a very good thing. The online trolls can be vile. But New Zealand weren’t hammered in the semi because England are a far superior team. They were hammered because Hansen has made serial misjudgments since the last World Cup.
Steve Hansen chats to media after arriving back in NZ
It’s not all the man’s fault. Luck always plays a huge and underrated part in winning World Cups. South Africa and England, the two finalists, were lucky. Remarkably they reached the tournament and went through to the final without any serious injuries to key players.
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New Zealand, however, were smashed about. The loss of Damian McKenzie forced a rethink. Rieko Ioane was not in great shape for a lot of the season and playing poorly. Ben Smith was crocked half the time and had lost his edge of pace, which caused him defensive and attacking issues. It caused a rethink around the back three.
The situation in the forwards was even worse. The entire first choice front row of Joe Moody, Dane Coles and Owen Franks suffered injuries and have not been able to reach the same heights since. Sam Whitelock was exhausted. Brodie Retallick suffered a serious injury. Liam Squire was out of it. Kieran Read was unable to p
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