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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

All Blacks beaten but Ireland coach laughs off 'No 1 team in the world' talk

Joe Schmidt disagrees with New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen's assessment despite former recording his second win over his compatriots in four meetings

Ireland celebrate a try to Jacob Stockdale during their friendly against New Zealand's All Blacks in Dublin late on Saturday. Getty Images
Ireland celebrate a try to Jacob Stockdale during their friendly against New Zealand's All Blacks in Dublin late on Saturday. Getty Images

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's claim that Ireland are now No 1 in the world and favourites for the World Cup has been dismissed as "banter" by the Six Nations champions' boss Joe Schmidt.

Hansen – who as coach will seek a second successive World Cup next year in Japan – made that assessment after the Irish had beaten his All Blacks 16-9 for their first win over them at home on Saturday.

"I said at the beginning of the week it is the two best sides in the world playing each other," Hansen said.

"As of now they are the No 1 team in the world."

Schmidt lauded his defence for becoming the first national team to keep the New Zealanders tryless since France in 1995.

But he was having none of Hansen's claims despite recording his second win over his compatriots in four meetings.

"I think he probably enjoyed a little bit of banter," Schmidt said. "I have huge respect for Steve and his team so to be favourites when they have been world No 1 for nine years isn't likely.

"We are at home, they are at the end of a long series of games travelling round the world.

"We had the fantastic crowd right behind us so there were lots of things stacked in our favour."

Hansen, who had a costly night as he handed over €460 (nearly Dh2,000) before the match to Schmidt for four tickets, insisted the Irish were favourites for the World Cup, although he added there were caveats.

"Ireland are favourites but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before it starts," he said.

"This is November so between now and then there can be injuries and new coaches. What we do know is Ireland will go there reasonably confident."

Schmidt, who has revolutionised Irish rugby since he took over in 2013, landing three Six Nations titles including the Grand Slam earlier this year, is too canny an individual and would not run with it.

"It is a nebulous thing for us, all we can control is our performance," he said.

"Others can postulate who is where and who is favourite."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, left, is considered a contender to replace New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen, right, sometime in the future. Reuters
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, left, is considered a contender to replace New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen, right, sometime in the future. Reuters

'Smacked around'

Schmidt, who prior to getting the Ireland job had coached Leinster to two European Cups, would not play ball either when asked if the players did not deserve to have the tag of favourites heading to Japan.

"You can ask Bestie that," he said referring to captain Roy Best, sitting alongside him.

"But I am not going to let him answer it! The players live in a bit of a bubble at this time.

"Really, as I said, being called World Cup favourites... what do you tangibly gain from that?"

Hansen, who said the team were "gutted" and the dressing room was sombre, insisted that defeats can be turned into positives down the line.

"This will be very useful as this team hasn't suffered many over the past three years," he said.

Schmidt has been touted as a future All Blacks coach and is due to announce by the end of the month whether he will stay on once his contract finishes after the World Cup.

"He is a good coach but you can't do that without having a great coaching team round you," Hansen said.

"One thing I do know about being a head coach is when you win you get applauded and when you lose you get smacked around a bit."