All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen has proved once again that he is the master of mind games after perfectly trolling the Wallabies ahead of their Rugby Championship opener.
Hansen claimed he is ‘dumbfounded’ by the select of Kurtley Beale at fly half ahead of Bernard Foley for Saturday’s game in Sydney. He went on to suggest that the move may have been to stave off reports of Beale’s flirtations with Rugby League.
He also brought up the question of Beale’s goalkicking record suggesting that the Wallabies are heaping more pressure on themselves by not selecting a more assured goalkicker.
“I was dumbfounded by it a wee bit initially, the selection,” he said. “I thought ‘why would he do that’ and I came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn’t trust him [Foley] to do be able to do what he wants against us. Or if you really think about it, the other guy [Beale] is under contract and league are chasing him so you might start to think maybe the ARU has told him he’s got to pick him.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter why he has. Both of them are very good rugby players and Kurtley is certainly a guy who loves to do things differently. He will throw a lot of inside balls to runners so we’re going to have to make sure we look after that part of the park, particularly from second and third phase play when guys are struggling to get into position.
“He’ll be dangerous. He’s not as good a goalkicker as Foley but I guess he’ll bring Foley on late in the game and if they need a goalkicker they’ve got the right one on at the right end of the game.”
Asked if he would select a player if the New Zealand Rugby Union told him to, Hansen replied: “No.”
Pressed on his “assertion” regarding McKenzie following orders, Hansen replied by saying it was an “assumption”.
“One guy has played there all year, the other guy has played seven tests at most in his whole career at first-five, so why would you change that? It was just a thought that came through my head and I’m sure it came through a few other peoples’.”
Asked if the All Blacks would try to rattle Beale, he said: “If we’re going to win the game we’re going to have to rattle a few of them better than they rattle us.”