Former British and Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward believes All Blacks chief Steve Hansen is under huge pressure ahead of the final Test of the British & Irish Lions tour in Auckland on Saturday.
Writing in his latest column in the Daily Mail, Woodward – who coached England between 1997-2004 and took charge of the Lions’ last tour to New Zealand in 2005 – has been highly critical of Hansen’s ways, particularly during and after the 24-21 defeat in Wellington.
“I’m a fan of Steve Hansen,” wrote Woodward.
“In fact I’m a fan of anybody who coaches at this level, and Steve has been an integral part of two World Cup wins with New Zealand. But the All Blacks coach is really under pressure this week.
“Just as last week was Warren Gatland’s toughest as a coach, this is the biggest test of Hansen’s career. Rarely does an All Blacks coach have his back against the wall at home, but Hansen has it all to do.
“Prior to their defeat in the second Test, New Zealand had not lost at home since 2009 and they haven’t lost two matches in a row in New Zealand since 1998. They have not been beaten at Eden Park — the venue for Saturday’s decider — since 1994.
“So this week we will find out a great deal about Hansen. There are those — but I’m not one of them — who believe any properly qualified coach could make a decent fist of taking charge of New Zealand when you have some of the world’s best players and a brilliant set-up. If only it was so simple!
Woodward, who coached against Hansen when was in charge of Wales, said he senses the All Blacks coach is on edge.
“I still sense he is edgy and I was very surprised that he called Malakai Fekitoa into the squad to provide cover at centre this week. New Zealand, a land crammed with all-round footballing backs, suddenly seem obsessed with ball-carrying centres. I am not sure how good their distribution skills are when comparing them with Farrell, for example.
“As the Lions start cranking up their forward effort, New Zealand need a second ball-player like Farrell. At present, New Zealand are leaving most of the playmaking to Beauden Barrett and as good a player as Barrett is, it makes defending that little bit easier for the Lions. “
“Hansen might have to come up with a clever fix or selection here.”