Steve Hansen urges rugby post-coronavirus to make most of second shot at global season

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Semi Final - England v New Zealand - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - October 26, 2019 New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen looks dejected after the match REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen believes rugby will get a second crack at a true global season post the COVID-19 pandemic and he’s calling on the sport not to drop the ball this time.

Hansen was a special guest on the most recent “Pick up the Pace” podcast out of Wellington and during a long discussion on his life and times in rugby the two-time World Cup winner spoke about the chance coming the sport’s way in the wake of the global coronavirus sporting shutdown.

Out of a question on whether New Zealand and world rugby does enough to support the Pacific Islands game, Hansen morphed into the wider topic of the shape the sport will take when the planet eventually reopens for normal business.

World Rugby recently attempted to introduce a global calendar and true international season via its Nations Championship concept but was blocked by staunch resistance from the northern hemisphere unions.

The 16-year All Blacks coach – eight as an assistant for Sir Graham Henry and eight in the top job – says there may now be a second shot at the aligned global calendar out of the wreckage of the current test rugby season that may struggle to get up and running in 2020.

“The need to make money out of the game is going to be even greater now,” he told the podcast’s Wainuiomata-based co-hosts. “It’s going to be a different world we wake up to once sport starts again and it is a great opportunity, if we take it – world rugby – to create a global season, start again and get it right.

“If we do that there will be more opportunities to play more games between the All Blacks and Pasifika teams, and Australia and South Africa the same, and to put a team into the Super competition …

“We’ve got plenty of opportunity at the moment out of some adversity in the coronavirus not allowing us to play to sit down and take the time to rethink a few things and say ‘righto, let’s be bold here, let’s be strong here and do something different’.”

Hansen also told the podcast it was important that the game did a much better job of protecting the interests of its many Pacific Islands players.

“The first thing we have to acknowledge is we – not just New Zealand rugby, but world rugby – are part of the problem so we have to be part of the solution. We’ve got too many of our Pasifika players up north who are being bullied into not playing for their international teams.

“Financially it’s very tough for them to be able to play. There’s one thing we can do straight away – we can knock that on the head and say we’ll bring these guys up here to play for our clubs but we’ll also make them available to play international rugby because we need international rugby to be strong.”

He also called for better administration of the game within the Pacific region and more effective spending of money that was made available to the national unions. “They’re giving them cash but they’re not giving them the way of getting the right return for it.”

Asked if he had a message to his country as it settled into the minimum month-long lockdown to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Hansen said:

“There’s been a lot of talk about being kind. But for me that’s something we should be all the time, and we shouldn’t need a pandemic for that.

“The message I would send is it will get better. We don’t only have a pandemic to deal with, we’re going to have a recession to deal with as well and that’s going to be tough.

“But if we stick together, ask for help when you need it … we’re not good at that, New Zealand men. It’s one thing to be mentally tough but it’s another to be vulnerable.

“If we can be vulnerable when we need to be, be kind all the time and care about one another we’ll get through what is a dark cloud at the moment

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