Hansen claims All Black European exiles lacking ‘mental fortitude’

All Black coach Steve Hansen has accused players who have left New Zealand to play in Ireland and other European countries as lacking “mental fortitude” while the country’s main newspaper has claimed future Irish teams will not be Irish.

Hansen claims All Black European exiles lacking ‘mental fortitude’

The New Zealand Herald interviewed Hansen following Chiefs back Bundee Aki’s decision to commit his future to Ireland by signing a three-year deal with Connacht following Nathan White and Jared Payne’s move to Ireland.

“It is frustrating and it is disappointing,” said Hansen. “Players here have a dream of playing for the All Blacks and then they suddenly give it up when an easier option comes along.

“It’s not their dream but they decide to go for it and I think we need players with a bit more mental fortitude, a bit more of a constitution to dig in harder and fight for the dream they really want.”

Gregor Paul, the Herald’s Sunday rugby writer, added a hard-hitting column where he claimed the IRFU and the other European unions “locked any amendments to the eligibility rules, arguing that the game’s credibility would be tarnished if players could serve a stand down after representing a Tier One nation and then appear for a Tier Two nation.

“The Celts in particular don’t see their hypocrisy or fully appreciate that their real motives are all too easy to read: they won’t vote for that change because it would strengthen the Pacific Islands to such an extent that Samoa, Fiji and Tonga could push well into the top 10 and stay there.

“Yet Ireland think nothing inappropriate in targeting Bundee Aki, the Chiefs midfielder who is also qualified to play for Samoa.

“If he ever plays test football, though, it will be in the green of Ireland. The absurdity of this could well be lost, as alongside him in the Irish team could be Jared Payne and Nathan White, former Super Rugby men here who were lured on similar deals.

“An Irish team that was raised oblivious to the story behind the Fields of Athenry is not an Irish team. Test jerseys shouldn’t be made available like that.”

Paul added that the decisions of these players to join Ireland could weaken New Zealand immeasurably after the next World Cup in 2015.

“It’s not just that situations can change at World Cups. Historically there has been a major clean out of personnel after them.

A pathway that is blocked pre-World Cup, can often clear quickly after it, and the fourth choice in some positions can suddenly be the first.

“That’s the nub of Hansen’s concern — that the severity of the exodus may not be fully appreciated until a few current All Blacks move on after 2015.

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