Rugby World Cup: Sir Steve Hansen breaks silence on World Cup role with All Blacks rivals

All Blacks coaching great Sir Steve Hansen has revealed the nature of his new role with former rival Eddie Jones and the Wallabies, confirming he accepted the position with the blessing of former colleague Ian Foster.

Last week, Rugby Australia announced Sir Steve - a two-time World Cup winner with the All Blacks - had joined the Wallabies' World Cup camp in a short-term advisory role.

The appointment with one of the All Blacks' arch nemeses sent shockwaves through New Zealand. Hooker Dane Coles said he was "gobsmacked" upon discovering the news during a media opportunity, while Prime Minister Chris Hipkins joked Hansen's citizenship should be cancelled.

Speaking to Sky Sport's The Breakdown from Australia's pre-World Cup camp in France, Hansen said the decision to help the Australians wasn't taken lightly, and came after repeated approaches from his "good mate" and former adversary.

Initially, Hansen rebuffed Jones, claiming he could never coach against the team with which he had such a sentimental attachment and decorated history, but eventually, the wily Australian's persistent advances wore him down.

"Eddie asked me quite some time ago, twice in fact, if I would join his coaching group, and the first time was through the whole season, and I said I couldn't coach against the All Blacks," said Hansen.

Hansen and Foster at the 2019 World Cup.
Hansen and Foster at the 2019 World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When he came back that third time, I knew he was reasonably in need of a friend and he is a great mate, and he's asked me to come over and have a look at what they're doing, and pass on anything I can see that would help them improve.

"I had a yarn to Fozzie about that and once he was okay with it, I was okay with it. Rugby is a game that creates friendships all over the world.

"It's a game that creates conversations all over the world, and Eddie and I have known each other since 1998."

Foster - who was an assistant under Hansen at the 2019 World Cup - has brushed off any suggestion of a breach of trust, joking he'd be taking advantage of having a spy in the opposition camp.

Hansen was quick to clarify the extent of his contributions, which he insisted were limited to conversations with the coaching staff and hadn't reached the level of donning any green-and-gold kit.

In fact, he was adamant any information he'd learned from Jones' preparations to face the French in their final pre-World Cup hitout, he fully intended to relay to Foster, as the All Blacks prepare for their tournament opener against the same opponents.

"I felt like he needed a hand, someone just to basically back up what he was doing," said Hansen, hours before the Wallabies were ultimately comfortably beaten by France.

"That's what I've done. I just had conversations with him and coaches - haven't put on any Wallabies gear.

"I found out a lot of information that I'll take away for myself and, funnily enough, I've been lucky enough to sit here all week and watch them prepare for an opponent that the All Blacks are playing next week. You'd be mad if you think I'm not going to pass that onto Fozzie."

After his brief time with the team, Hansen noted there was one area where the Wallabies were clearly lacking relative to the All Blacks - leadership.

Rookie captain Will Skelton and vice-captain Tate McDermott are still trying to find their feet at international level, after a turbulent start to the latest Jones era that will see them head into the tournament winless through five tests in 2023.

Hansen pointed his finger at the Australian Super Rugby franchises for failing to develop some senior leaders, adding he'd made it an immediate focus in his new position.

"One thing I can tell you is they're not in the same place as the All Blacks are with their leadership group," he explained. "That's an area that they're working hard at trying to catch up.

"There clearly hadn't been any development being done in the Super Rugby teams or not enough of it, so there's a big difference there, and some of the conversations we've had is how we can help them be better at that."

Monday's lopsided defeat to France at Paris provided another stark reminder of where the Wallabies sit in the test pecking order, but Hansen said the rebuilding team were trying to find their own identity and realise they have a golden opportunity in France to upset the apple cart, given their favourable standing on the less challenging side of the draw.

"They're a nice group of young men," he said. "Any team environment has the same sort of feel, but has its own identity too.

"They don't want to be like the All Blacks, they want to be like the Wallabies. They're young, they're very excited about this World Cup.

"They know they've got an opportunity, because of the side of the draw they're on, and they're just working away really hard - as you'd imagine, under Eddie - on the training park to get ready to play.

"It's just another sporting team that has characters, has a bit of banter and has serious moments. It's really interesting to see the subtle differences between the two countries too."

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