Lam ‘sad­dened’ by Hansen claim

The Press - - Sport - MARC HIN­TON

“Did Steve Hansen con­sider him­self an ex-New Zealan­der when he chose to leave New Zealand and coach the Wales na­tional team against the All Blacks?" Pat Lam, above, on Steve Hansen, be­low

For­mer Blues rugby coach Pat Lam has hit back at what he per­ceives as some heavy-handed crit­i­cism from All Blacks boss Steve Hansen around Steven Lu­atua’s de­ci­sion to sign a two-year deal with Bris­tol in Eng­land.

Af­ter it was an­nounced ear­lier this week that Lu­atua, a 15-test All Black, would join rel­e­ga­tion­threat­ened English Pre­mier­ship out­fit Bris­tol for the be­gin­ning of the 2017-18 north­ern sea­son, Hansen ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment that the 25-year-old loose for­ward hadn’t dis­cussed his sit­u­a­tion with him per­son­ally.

Lam, cur­rently ply­ing his coaching trade with great suc­cess at Con­nacht in Ire­land, will take up the top job at Bris­tol from the start of the next sea­son, with Lu­atua his first ma­jor sign­ing.

The Blues loose for­ward will see out the Su­per Rugby sea­son be­fore head­ing north and would be avail­able for the All Blacks’ se­ries against the British and Ir­ish Lions.

But Hansen’s com­ments to Fair­fax Me­dia on Tues­day, when Lu­atua’s de­ci­sion was made pub­lic, in­di­cate that might be a long shot.

‘‘It’s al­ways dis­ap­point­ing when you lose a good player, re­gard­less of who he is,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘In this case it’s dou­ble dis­ap­point­ing be­cause of the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It wasn’t as if we were able to en­gage in the process.

‘‘Some agents once they get an of­fer they’ll come to the ta­ble and ne­go­ti­ate; oth­ers don’t. Steven’s crew didn’t want to talk be­cause they are fear­ful we are go­ing to change th­ese guys’ minds which is dis­ap­point­ing.

‘‘He spoke briefly to the con­tracts team, and he’s been tapped on the shoul­der by Pat Lam which is dis­ap­point­ing too. If you’re an ex-New Zealan­der you should be a bit mind­ful about play­ers’ ca­reers. But when they de­cide to go you’ve got to sup­port them. Steven has made that de­ci­sion so we’ll do that.’’

Lam has fired back at one as­pect of Hansen’s claims, tak­ing par­tic­u­lar ex­cep­tion at be­ing tagged an ‘‘ex-New Zealan­der’’.

“I am very sad­dened and dis­ap­pointed that All Black head coach Steve Hansen has made a per­sonal at­tack on my­self and my fam­ily by call­ing me an ‘ex-New Zealan­der’,’’ Lam said in a state­ment.

‘‘Since pro­fes­sion­al­ism be­gan in 1996 many New Zealand rugby play­ers have signed for over­seas clubs coached by New Zealan­ders. Cur­rently there are over 50 All Blacks play­ing for for­eign teams and only four weeks ago 47-test capped cur­rent All Black Aaron Cru­den was re­cruited by New Zealan­der Vern Cot­ter for Mont­pel­lier in France.

“I am not sure why Steve Hansen would un­prece­dent­edly choose to sin­gle me out pub­licly and call me an ‘ex-New Zealan­der’.

“I was born in New Zealand to hard-work­ing Samoan par­ents. I was ed­u­cated in New Zealand and worked as a school­teacher and a pro­fes­sional rugby coach in New Zealand. I had the priv­i­lege and hon­our to rep­re­sent both my coun­try of birth and my coun­try of her­itage. I am a proud New Zealan­der and I’m also proud to be a Pa­cific Is­lan­der.

‘‘The only rea­son we don’t live in New Zealand at the mo­ment is I had an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to coach rugby pro­fes­sion­ally in Ire­land and sup­port my fam­ily af­ter be­ing sacked by the NZRU and the Blues.”

Lam also raised the quite per­ti­nent point that Hansen, too, had gone down the same path of coaching over­seas to fur­ther his ca­reer.

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