Connacht coach Pat Lam has hit back at Steve Hansen after the All Blacks coach branded him an “ex-New Zealander”.
After Steven Luatua signed a two-year deal with Bristol, Hansen expressed his disappointment at being unable to speak with the loose forward before he decided to leave New Zealand rugby.
Hansen was frustrated that Luatua was “tapped on the shoulder” by Lam, who will be taking the reins at Bristol at the end of the season, and said the former Blues coach should have known better.
“If you’re an ex-New Zealander you should be a bit mindful about players’ careers,” Hansen told Fairfax.
In a statement sent to Newstalk ZB’s Tony Veitch, Lam took issue with that label and said he was “saddened and disappointed” by Hansen’s “personal attack”.
“I am not sure why Steve Hansen would unprecedentedly choose to single me out publically and call me an ‘ex-New Zealander’,” Lam said.
“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 pointed to the large number of Kiwi players and coaches currently plying their trade overseas, and asked whether Hansen considered himself an ex-New Zealander when he was coaching Wales.
“Myself and I’m sure many other New Zealanders who are living and working overseas do not consider ourselves ‘ex-New Zealanders’ just because we are not living in New Zealand.
“When I have joined the thousands of other Northern based Kiwis who attended and cheered on the All Blacks in their Test matches in the Northern Hemisphere we certainly didn’t do so as ‘ex-New Zealanders’.
“I believe many New Zealanders would also be offended to be labelled an ‘ex-New Zealander’ by the All Black coach, as he has great influence because of his position of privilege and responsibility in representing New Zealand worldwide.
“Who determines who is a New Zealander and who isn’t? I don’t believe that has ever been the role of the All Black head coach.”
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