By Greg Stutchbury
TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has laughed off spying claims by England counterpart Eddie Jones and repeated his own assertions that the Australian likes to play mind games before big matches.
Jones told reporters on Tuesday that England had seen someone filming their training session in Tokyo ahead of their World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks, though he did not accuse the New Zealanders of being the culprits.
“Eddie and I both know it’s all fair in love and war,” Hansen told a media conference on Thursday after naming his side for Saturday’s semi-final at Yokohama Stadium.
“And Eddie knows in a time of war that you throw out a bit of distraction for you guys (the media) to deal with. Best clickbait in the world, ‘someone is spying on us’.
“He didn’t say it was us. He was very deliberate in doing that. He talked about it being someone else, probably a fan. But everyone has jumped on it. (He) has been very clever.”
Hansen added that he and Jones exchanged text messages and “laughed” at the claims and the stories about the pair’s mind games ahead of the semi-final.
“It’s a mind game only if you buy into it,” Hansen said. “As I said, it’s allowed us to have a good laugh.”
The New Zealander also dismissed suggestions in some quarters that the All Blacks are under more pressure than Jones’s side, given they are two-times defending champions.
“I have talked about pressure since I have been All Blacks coach,” he said. “Early in our history we probably ran away from it and … let it chase us down the street.
“These days we acknowledge it’s there. We get it every game … doesn’t matter if it’s a quarter-final, semi-final or a test match. There is pressure … but it would be very naive not to acknowledge it to be on both sides.”
Hansen also said he doubts that Jones believes his own statement that England have “nothing to lose”.
“They will have memories of the tournament from four years ago, where it didn’t go that good,” Hansen said of England’s failure to go beyond the pool phase of the tournament they hosted four years ago.
“For him to say they have nothing to lose, Eddie doesn’t believe that either. They have had four years of work resulting in one outcome … they have built themselves up for this.
“That brings its own pressure.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by David Goodman)