All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has accused Robbie Deans of playing the ‘martyr’ in the duel for the All Blacks job in 2007.
Deans had enjoyed great success as coach of the Crusaders and was heavily favoured to take the post from Graham Henry after the All Blacks were beaten by France in the World Cup quarterfinal, but Henry retained his position and Deans took over as coach of the Wallabies instead.
Hansen believes that Deans never really wanted the All Blacks job in the first place, and instead set himself up as the ‘martyr’.
Speaking in a documentary on the 2011 World Cup success called Weight of a Nation, which was aired in New Zealand on Sunday, Hansen explained that the fact that Deans had not lined up any assistants by the time he went for his interview suggests he had no real ambition to take the job in the first place.
“If you want my honest opinion, I don’t think Robbie wanted it [the All Blacks job] anyway. I think Robbie had already signed for Australia.
“I think he just went through the motions and wanted to be the martyr if he didn’t get it, so he wins on both sides of the table. That’s how I felt about it because you don’t go to a [New Zealand Rugby Union] selection meeting and when asked, ‘Who is going to be your running mates?’ – knowing that the opposition [Graham Henry] has got two pretty good candidates [Hansen and Wayne Smith] behind him – with a wishy washy answer. He did.
“And that’s why he lost the job, from my understanding. So, did he really want the job?”
Smith admitted that the “three wise men” (Henry, Hansen and himself) believed that Deans had the job wrapped up, and saw themselves more as an outside shot.
“In our gut, we probably thought that Robbie would get the job,” said current Chiefs assistant coach Smith. “And I don’t think any of us would have begrudged that, because of his record and how well he had done.
“I still remember – Steve and I didn’t have to go to the interview and ‘Ted’ [Henry] did – the phone went that evening and it was Ted saying, ‘we’re buggered mate’. And I said, ‘oh well, Ted, at least we had a crack at it and he said, ‘Oh yeh but the interview didn’t go well and I think we’re buggered’,” he revealed.
Henry admitted that he was as surprised as anyone at getting a second chance.
“I didn’t think I’d get the job,” he said. “I thought they’d appoint Robbie. I went down to the interview in Wellington, had the interview, didn’t do the interview well . . . got too emotional,” he said.
The claims by Hansen will certainly add further spice to encounters between the Bledisloe rivals next year when the All Blacks look to retain their Rugby Championship title.