Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Stand by for Argie but not a lot of bargy

Hansen dismisses suggestions Pumas might resort to dirty tactics to gain advantage as All Blacks seek to deliver on expectations

The All Black press conference was an early start. It was at their Hamilton hotel though and players knew it was on their agenda.

Somehow debut second five-eighth Francis Saili lost his compass on the way from his room to the meeting area, or had not digested the memo about the start time.

That provoked an inquiring quip or three about Saili being up with the play when he and the All Blacks square off in tomorrow's Rugby Championship test against Argentina.

When the smiling 22-year-old arrived for the chat, most of the inquiries of him and coach Steve Hansen were about the All Blacks. The room loved the "go out there and bang it" message, Saili revealed his Blues brother Peter had delivered.

This was an All Black team announcement and a chance to question the coaches' decisions.

Video


It was also another test in New Zealand so the Kiwi-centric focus was logical.

We listened for some word about the Pumas. It took about seven minutes before the first inquiry about some "argy-bargy" from new Feed the Backs host James McOnie.

"We're expecting Argie anyway," Hansen shot back before he dismissed any ideas of bargy from the supplementary McOnie question.

Rugby was a physical game and it would be no different tomorrow at Waikato Stadium. It did take two to tango, Hansen agreed, to a further question from a chortling audience before he gave the inquirer some grief about his dress sense.

The Puma-free question zone had been cracked.

Argentine forward Leonardo Senatore was banned for nine weeks for biting in their last test with the Springboks, but fellow forward Pablo Matera was cleared of an eye-gouging charge.

Those incidents, real or retaliatory, underpin perceptions for those who believe Argentina err on the side of foul play. Those views get regular traction from the likes of prop Juan Figallo who was banned for three weeks last year for charging into a ruck with his head.

Hansen was not about to condemn any actions from the Pumas. Perhaps for him, it was like the Graham Henry advises Argentina furore that got some airplay last year but has been consigned to the history basket this season.

One of the strengths of the Springboks and Argentina was their physical impact and that increased the levels of intensity, exemplified by the likes of combative loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon.

"We are not playing tiddlywinks so every now and again people will do things they probably don't want to do, but in the heat of the battle it happens," Hansen said.

"I don't see them as being a dirty team. I think that's what everyone is trying to imply and I don't think they are. They are a good rugby side and they are growing into this competition.

"They probably have the hardest job of all four teams as they have most of their players playing in the Northern Hemisphere.

"They don't get too much of an opportunity to get a reconditioning window that you get at the end of the season."

Hansen hoped they could get more players to return to Argentina where they could build up their domestic calendar to dovetail better with the Rugby Championship.

The Pumas did not have the luxury of resting at the same time as New Zealand players and that was a disadvantage.

The All Blacks had never lost to Argentina and that might create a flutter for some, Hansen said. He wanted to welcome the challenge.

"The All Blacks, whether you are a coach, a player or the baggage man, you are expected to win every test, whether you have never lost to them before or whether you have had one or two or three losses.

"So that does not change and once you understand that and embrace that, it is actually quite a motivating factor because we are expecting to win - we want to win anyway."

The All Blacks wanted to win every match they played and they also wanted to perform well in that process.

"You can't allow someone else's expectations to be greater than yours if you are in this team," said Hansen.

"As a collective group we have to have higher expectations than our fans and I think that is one of the great things over the years for the All Blacks."

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 22 Sep 2014 21:01:03 Processing Time: 513ms