No shame in losing to better team: Hansen

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen shakes hands with England's Mako Vunipola after the match, on Oct 26, 2019.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen shakes hands with England's Mako Vunipola after the match, on Oct 26, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

YOKOHAMA • New Zealand coach Steve Hansen insisted there was "no shame" in losing to England after yesterday's stunning 19-7 World Cup semi-final defeat by the Red Roses.

The All Blacks' hopes of a record third straight crown were ruined by England, who beat the champions for the first time in seven years, ending their record 18-match unbeaten streak in the competition dating back to 2007.

While Hansen, whose seven-year reign comes to an end after Friday's third-place play-off against Wales or South Africa, admitted "no loss is easy to take", he called on his dispirited players to put "your big-boy pants on" and not to mope around.

"The boys are desperately hurting. You put a lot of time and effort, and energy into trying to win the thing," he added.

"But if you don't achieve what you want to do, you have to stand up and be counted.

"They're (England) a good team, they were deserved winners. You had two very, very good sides going at each other and the team that took the game won the game.

"You have to give them credit and good luck to them (in the final)."

Manu Tuilagi crashed over after just one minute and 37 seconds to set the tone for England, who were paced by fly-half George Ford's four penalties as they overcame Hansen's players for the first time in the World Cup following defeats in 1991, 1995 and 1999.

Pain was etched on the faces of the dejected All Blacks as the anthem "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" rang out from the English fans in the countdown to the final gong in Yokohama and Kieran Read said "we're all hurting".

"It's hard to put into words," mumbled the captain, who will also bring the curtain down on a glittering international career next week. "We gave our all - we gave as much as we had and just came up short."

Had it not been from an overthrown line-out throw that Ardie Savea snaffled to crash over after 57 minutes, England could have inflicted only their second shutout against the All Blacks since 1936.

Despite the score, Hansen acknowledged that the result was a fair one.

"We've got no regrets - sometimes, you might find that sport's not fair," he added.

"But tonight, it was. We got beaten by a better team and have to take that on the chin."

The All Blacks had not lost at the Cup since a quarter-final upset by France in 2007, when Hansen was assistant coach. Though he had insisted in his pre-match press conference there would be no complacency, they could not deal with England's more destructive pack.

Much of the game was played inside New Zealand's half, and Eddie Jones' men effectively applied pressure on their lineout and at the breakdown, suffocating the attack.

However, Hansen refuted suggestions the loss to England ranked up there with the France defeat and snapped when quizzed if his players had "turned up".

"It's a heck of a disappointment, but the big difference in '07 and this year is we stepped up to the plate today," he added.

"We played as hard as we possibly could. There's a lot of hurt - but that hurt will feed a lot more All Blacks teams in the future, so we'll find one positive out of it."

"It's quite a disrespectful question to suggest that an All Blacks team turned up not being hungry.

"Because I asked them at half-time to get hungrier, doesn't mean they didn't turn up hungry - there's a big difference.

"If you want to spend some time outside, I'll give you a rugby education on that one."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 27, 2019, with the headline 'No shame in losing to better team: Hansen'. Print Edition | Subscribe