TOKYO, Japan, Oct 24 – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen dismissed England counterpart Eddie Jones’ spying claims as a “clickbait distraction” ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Most leading nations keep their practice secret, with strict limits on who is allowed into the ground to ensure opponents can’t get inside information ahead of a game.
Jones alleged Tuesday that an unknown cameraman had filmed them, but Hansen was quick to shrug that off.
“Hell of a good bloke, very good coach,” a smiling Hansen said of Jones on Thursday.
“Eddie and I both know it’s all fair in love and war.
“And Eddie knows that in a time of war you throw out a bit of distraction for you guys (media) to deal with. It’s the best clickbait in the world: someone is spying on us.”
Hansen added that Jones had not pointed the finger at the All Blacks.
“He didn’t say it was us. He was very deliberate in not doing that. He talked about it being someone else, probably the same bloke who videoed us when we were there,” he said.
“But everyone has jumped on it and got the clickbait going.
“It’s a mind game only if you buy into it. It’s allowed us to have a good laugh. We’re not buying into it.”
Hansen admitted Jones had contacted him — but not to discuss spying.
“He has been in touch with me but not about those claims,” he said. “We have had a few laughs about other things.”
Hansen added that the All Blacks had it all to do in Yokohama against an England side he said had been a “marvellous team in periods in the last four years”.
“We are really looking forward to playing them, as are they us. These are the moments the players and staff want to be involved in — the big games.
“Viewers can get excited about it and hopefully the game can live up to the hype and expectations so we can send our message around the world.”
While the All Blacks are double defending champions, having won the World Cup in 2015 and 2011, Hansen warned against the mindset of 2007, when, as massive favourites, New Zealand were toppled by France in the quarter-finals.
“Sometimes people will come off the euphoria of winning the quarter-final and start looking ahead to the final,” he said.
“That is a mistake we have made in the past. We may have even done it in 2007 looking beyond the quarter-final. If you start looking beyond where we’re at then your mind isn’t where your feet are and that makes you vulnerable.”