Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen 'really proud' of players despite semi-final loss to England

England, led by a superb defensive effort of Maro Itoje, dominated from the opening buzzer to secure a 19-7 win and clinch a fourth Rugby World Cup final appearance and a first since 2007

Steve Hansen said England were deserved winners as New Zealand relinquished their eight-year grip on the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama.

England, led by a superb defensive effort of Maro Itoje, dominated from the opening buzzer to secure a 19-7 win and clinch a fourth Rugby World Cup final appearance and a first since 2007.

The All Blacks were rattled after only two minutes when Manu Tuilagi barreled over for a try after excellent work in the build-up from Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes with Owen Farrell adding the extras.

New Zealand were never allowed to get into any sort of rhythm, with Itoje, alongside wing forwards Sam Underhill and Tom Curry dominating at the break down.

"Firstly I'd just like to congratulate England, they played a brilliant game of footy and deserved to win," Hansen said. "You can't give them half a step because they will take it. At the end of the day, you have to say well done to them.

"I'm really proud of our team, they've done a tremendous job for their country and tonight they weren't good enough. We have to take that on the chin and so do the people back home.

"You saw the boys at the end, they were still trying their guts out and that's all you can ask. Really proud of them."

The recalled George Ford justified his inclusion as he kicked 12 points and formed a formidable partnership with Farrell at inside centre.

The 2003 champions played much of the game inside New Zealand's half, suffocated the All Blacks attack and will now meet the winner of Sunday's second semi-final between Wales and South Africa.

The All Blacks had entered the tournament as favourites to win the Webb Ellis trophy for a third successive time but instead were left chasing a team who had undergone a major overhaul from the side that did not progress past the pool phase in 2015.

The loss was more significant because it signalled the end of an unprecedented era of success for the team under Hansen.

The 60-year-old Kiwi had been involved with the side for 16 years, as an assistant for eight years under Graham Henry and then as head coach, and is stepping down after the tournament.

Under Hansen they had a win-rate approaching 90 per cent as they continued to reshape the game and force the rest of the world to try and peg them back.

The forwards, however, were not as dominant or menacing as the side that won the 2015 tournament, with England's pack far more destructive in contact and defence.

Against the fearless twin opensides of Curry and Underhill, and faced with a career-defining performance from lock Itoje, the All Blacks were first beaten up, then ground down.

The backs have also stuttered over the last two years in the face of the aggressive defences that have developed in the northern hemisphere and while they managed to get wide at times they were often smothered or forced out by covering tacklers.

When All Blacks captain Kieran Read was asked by a Kiwi reporter later at the post-mathc press conference if the players had “turned up”, Hansen bristled, threatening to shirt-front his inquisitor: “I think it’s quite a disrespectful question to suggest that an All Blacks team turned up not being hungry.

“Because I asked them at half-time to get hungrier, doesn’t mean they didn’t turn up hungry - there’s a big difference.

“If you want to spend some time outside, I’ll give you a rugby education on that one.”

Updated: October 26, 2019 04:42 PM

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