By Greg Stutchbury
TOKYO (Reuters) – An emotional New Zealand coach Steve Hansen acknowledged on Sunday that losing their World Cup semi-final to England was still “gut wrenching” though they were not surprised by the quality of their opposition.
The All Blacks were beaten in every facet of the game on Saturday at Yokohama Stadium and put on the back foot from the opening whistle, with centre Manu Tuilagi smashing over for a try after just 98 seconds.
The 19-7 defeat ended the All Blacks’ 18-match unbeaten run at the World Cup since they last lost to France in the 2007 quarter-finals.
“I’m still hurting as you’d expect, and I’m sure the whole country’s hurting,” Hansen told reporters on Sunday. “You come to a tournament like this and you want to win the thing.
“We got beaten by a team that was better than us … it’s gut wrenching.”
While Hansen admitted they were outplayed he said his coaching staff knew what was coming for them as England produced a massive defensive effort and dominated the breakdown and collision areas.
“It didn’t take us by surprise, we knew we were in for a hell of a battle,” he added.
“This England team hasn’t just snuck up and poked us in the face. They won 18 games in a row and there’s only one other team that’s done that in the history of the game and that makes them a formidable side.
“We played them last year, managed to win by a point, it was a titanic struggle.
“They’re a team that were coming into this tournament over the last four years with a massive amount of pain themselves.
“They’ve been working and working their butts off, probably mores than any other England team in history.
“They don’t play a sophisticated game. Win the ball, give it to a big bloke and run hard. Win the collision and get over the gain line. That’s rugby in its simplest form but it is beautiful as well.
“We got what we expected and we just have to acknowledge that on the night, they did things a little better than we did.”
Hansen, who is leaving the role after the World Cup, appeared to almost let his emotions get the better of him when he was asked about his reactions immediately after the whistle when he was seen on the telephone.
“I rang my wife,” Hansen said before he paused and took a drink of water. “We had a bit of a chat.”
He added that he had also talked to former coach Graham Henry and centre Conrad Smith about their quarter-final loss to France and the similarities in experiences.
“We mentioned the fact that it’s no different. It was a gutting feeling,” he said.
“Then Ted (Henry) and I spoke how well George Ford had played. Ted had quite a few comments. I did a bit of listening. And tried to do some learning.
“Then you just move on don’t you?”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)