Laidback demeanour of coach expected to pay dividends on match days

In this World Cup of marginal gains in which the top nations are looking for the smallest advantage to put them on the path to the William Webb Ellis trophy, everything counts - even the demeanour of the coaching staff.

That is the attitude the All Blacks management have taken into England 2015.

They have appeared relaxed from the time they strode into the Tower of London a few hours after their long-haul flight from New Zealand, and no one has looked more at ease than head coach Steve Hansen.

The task for Hansen, who a few years ago made a quip about his then head coach Graham Henry having an "upside-down smile", is ensuring the easy grin stays in place during the knockout phases.


So far, so good, even in the almost daily press conferences at which Hansen is required to attend.

He made a quip about it on day one at the Tower but has attended each with grace and good humour, even when asked the same questions time and again.

Hansen, a naturally funny man with a humour as dry as a dusty road, has been having a bit of fun here.

He has drummed a microphone-laden table when waiting for a press conference to start, joked about the "nice lady" translator being too loud in his ear after the Argentina match - and looked mildly offended when skipper Richie McCaw offered him advice - and even poked some mild fun at the expense of the All Blacks' bus driver.

The driver, understood to be an Englishman named Johnny, was doing a good job, said Hansen, although he appeared to be a little under-employed at their self-contained base in Teddington, south west London.

The topic came up when Hansen was asked about the hotel the squad were staying at before their move to central London for the match against Namibia at the Olympic Stadium.

"Not so much the relaxed atmosphere, more the fact that I think we've only been on the bus twice since we've arrived," he said of the Lensbury club.

"The bus driver's had a pretty cheap week. Funnily enough he had to have a couple of days off."


The intention is for his players to be similarly relaxed before and after they go to work at training or into game mode.

With that attitude they are most likely to express themselves and if they do that then the performance will likely follow. A team which goes into its shell will likely do the opposite.

All Blacks Asst coach Ian Foster gives his frank assessment of the AB's play and attitude in the match against Namibia. When the game got slow he says the All Blacks lost their form.

Asked about the almost daily press conferences Hansen is required to attend, he said: "I'm not sure if I'm enjoying them, but I'm here and, look, you understand that this is part of the World Cup.

"People want to hear about what you're doing and part of your role as a coach at these things is to try to be as honest as you can without giving away any secrets.

"I've come to realise after being in the All Blacks for about 14 years now there's no point in getting over-aroused or tense. If I'm relaxed then the players are relaxed and that's what we're trying to do.

"Obviously as we go further into the tournament I'll have to work a little bit harder on that."

There is no pressure for a rugby player or coach like that of a sudden-death World Cup game. Hansen and his fellow coaches and players are relaxed, but it's still early days in this tournament.

In the meantime, the smiles and jokes are likely to keep coming.