YOKOHAMA, Japan, Oct 26 – New Zealand coach Steve Hansen insisted there was “no shame” in losing to England after their stunning 19-7 World Cup semi-final defeat by England in Yokohama on Saturday.
The treble-chasing All Blacks were put to the sword by a clinical England, who beat the champions for the first time in seven years and snapped New Zealand’s record 18-match unbeaten streak in the competition dating back to 2007.
“No loss is easy to take,” said Hansen, whose seven-year reign as head coach comes to an end after next weekend’s third-place playoff against Wales or South Africa.
“The boys are desperately hurting. You put a lot of time and effort and energy into trying to win the thing,” he added.
“But if you don’t achieve what you want to do, you have to put your big-boy pants on and stand up and be counted.
“They’re a good team — there’s no shame in getting beaten by them.”
Manu Tuilagi crashed over after just one minute and 37 seconds to set the tone for England, who were paced by fly-half George Ford’s four penalties as they overcame New Zealand for the first time at the World Cup following defeats in 1991, 1995 and 1999.
Pain was etched on the faces of the dejected All Blacks as the English anthem “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” rang out from the England fans among a crowd of 68,000 in the countdown to the final gong.
“It’s hard to put into words,” mumbled New Zealand captain Kieran Read, who will also bring the curtain down on a glittering international career next week.
“We gave our all — we gave as much as we had and just came up short. We’re all hurting.”
– ‘No regrets’ –
Had it not been from an overthrown lineout throw that Ardie Savea snaffled to crash over after 57 minutes, England could potentially have inflicted only their second-ever shutout against the All Blacks, the first coming all the way back in 1936.
“They were deserved winners tonight,” admitted Hansen.
“We’ve got no regrets — sometimes you might find that sport’s not fair. But tonight it was. We just got beaten by a better team and we have to take that on the chin.”
New Zealand had not lost at the World Cup since a quarter-final defeat by France in 2007, when Hansen was assistant coach.
“It’s a heck of a disappointment but the big difference in ’07 and this year is we stepped up to the plate today,” he said.
“We played as hard as we possibly could. There’s a lot of hurt — but that hurt will feed a lot more All Blacks teams in the future, so we’ll find one positive out of it.”
When Read was asked by a Kiwi reporter if the players had “turned up”, Hansen’s patience snapped.
“I think it’s quite a disrespectful question to suggest that an All Blacks team turned up not being hungry,” he bristled, threatening to shirt-front his inquisitor.
“Because I asked them at half-time to get hungrier, doesn’t mean they didn’t turn up hungry — there’s a big difference.
“If you want to spend some time outside, I’ll give you a rugby education on that one.”