All Black Dane Coles on Steve Hansen bombshell - 'What are you up to?'

8:26 am on 22 August 2023

One sweltering London day after the All Blacks had been more than happy that none of the big rugby stories right now involve them, a ghost from the past came back to blow that status out of the water.

OK, calling Steve Hansen a ghost might be a little unfair, but Dane Coles certainly acted like he'd seen one when informed by the travelling New Zealand media that his former World Cup winning coach was linking up with Eddie Jones and the Wallabies.

"Shag, what are you up to?!" said Coles at the team's training base in Teddington, after initially not believing the news.

"It hurts a little bit, to be fair. I know he's tight with Eddie, they're good mates … but he's a bit of an icon in the All Black set up. I'm a bit speechless, a bit disappointing but we can't do much about that."

The 86-test veteran certainly wasn't alone - after finishing his press conference the reactions of the rest of the All Blacks showed just what a bombshell it was. Especially since Coles is a man who knows a thing or two about loyalty, having only ever played domestically for Wellington and the Hurricanes, and presumably turning down offshore offers his whole career. That's a career that will end with this World Cup campaign, his third.

All Black coach Steve Hansen.

Steve Hansen finished up with the All Blacks in 2019. File photo Photo: Photosport

But that's playing, not coaching. The current environment for men in charge is that they all very much have their price, and Hansen certainly has leveraged his credentials since finishing up with the All Blacks in 2019. He is director of rugby at Japanese side Toyota Verblitz and had a stint advising at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, so him turning into a gun for hire in the test rugby scene isn't exactly unprecedented. Especially since the Wallabies had a New Zealander as their coach anyway up until not that long ago.

As Coles said, Hansen and Jones are close, as are presumably most of the test coaches these days. So, while whatever he is doing with the Wallabies has probably been in the works for a while due to that relationship, it's very interesting to see it play out in the public eye.

Remember, these two were in charge when England sensationally sent the All Blacks crashing out of the last World Cup and ending Hansen's tenure in failure after almost a decade of dominance. Before that, they'd locked horns when Hansen had coached Wales and Jones the Wallabies.

That history alone shows just how nomadic a coach's life can be (come on down John Mitchell), but this collaboration still comes as a real shock to New Zealanders. Yes, Robbie Deans and Dave Rennie both helmed the Wallabies, but that was in response to being given the cold shoulder by the All Blacks and NZ Rugby. Hansen became increasingly astute at controlling the message through the media towards the end of his time at the All Blacks, so it'll be interesting to see if he comments publicly in the coming days.

After finishing with the All Blacks, Hansen infamously proclaimed he didn't want to be bothered by the media about the team's fortunes, a rule he's broken several times since, so he's certainly not shy when a microphone gets pointed his way.

Coles' reaction certainly provided some laughs and great vision for the TV cameras, but Ardie Savea seemed far more nonplussed when asked, simply saying "he (Hansen)'s gotta do what he's gotta do."

While the sentiment is certainly admirable from Savea, the truth is Hansen doesn't really need to be doing this. It's an extremely odd move this close to a World Cup. Whether his presence can help a clearly struggling Wallaby outfit remains to be seen, but it would be quite the sight if he dons a green and gold polo shirt and sits next to Jones in the coaches' box.