The All Blacks aren’t getting drawn into the debate when it comes to former coach Sir Steve Hansen’s attack on New Zealand Rugby.
The World Cup-winning coach laid out strong criticism of the national body in an interview on Today FM on Thursday.
Commenting on the home series loss to Ireland and the intense scrutiny that had followed, Hansen said NZR had presided over a series of high-performance failures and its relationship with players was at an all-time low.
A player representative on the New Zealand Rugby Players Association board, halfback Aaron Smith was steering clear of his former mentor’s thoughts on Friday.
“I only really saw the headline to be honest,” he said as the All Blacks departed for their opening pair of Rugby Championship matches in South Africa.
“I was at home in the grill with my kids and yesterday I was doing all my training.
“I saw a little glimpse of it but I can’t comment on what was said.”
Smith was, though, very clear on some of the comment and scrutiny surrounding coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane in the wake of the Irish series.
The first-choice No 9 had been in the national side as long as Foster, and said hearing some of the criticism hadn’t been easy.
“You know they care and to see a lot of the bad stuff around him and Sam Cane, it’s hurtful.
“It’s quite ridiculous how ruthless it’s actually been, and I feel for them but on Monday (in team camp in Wellington) we had a good chat as a group and we’re backing them.
“It’s up to us in the next two weeks to put a bit of pride back in the jersey for ourselves but also for the people who have been under the squeeze the most.”
Determination echoed by first five-eighth Beauden Barrett.
The All Blacks playmaker admitted it had been a long time since the team had tests as big as the two they were getting set for against the Springboks.
“We’ve probably never been so determined as a group to get better.
“The desire to get better individually is so strong amongst the group but as a team, on the back of our recent performances, it’s so strong…
“I’m confident we’ll bounce back. We’re really determined to make sure our game keeps improving.
“Let’s just get stuck into it now and what a place to do it, in South Africa against the world champions.
“Back-to-back test matches. I don’t know the last time we had a test that big.”
The All Blacks first test against the Springboks was on Sunday week.
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