Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the only way to revive the competitiveness of Australian men’s rugby union is to reduce the number of its Super Rugby sides.
- Hansen suggests Australia only have three teams at the level below Test rugby
- He says Australia’s development pathways need reshaping
- Hansen believes the Wallabies lacked intensity across 80 minutes in the recent Bledisloe Cup Test loss
Hansen also said there needed to be increased competition for spots at the top of club rugby in Australia.
Five sides have contested the domestic Super Rugby AU competition the past two seasons, with the Western Force reinstated last year following its axing in 2017.
The Force also joined the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels in the Super Rugby trans-Tasman tournament earlier this year, which featured New Zealand’s five Super Rugby Aotearoa teams.
The Australian sides only managed two victories from 25 matches against their New Zealand opponents, with the Auckland-based Blues winning the tournament.
Hansen said having five professional sides in Australia meant it was too easy for players to make it to the top level.
“If you look at the [Australian] Super [Rugby] teams, there’s too many of them,” Hansen said on the ABC Sport’s Corbin and Ben radio program.
“You only need three teams.
“For them to be able to prepare their players to compete at Test rugby the way they should be allowed to prepare, I think they need to pick Team A, B and C and then select players from all the interstate [teams], [and] throw them into those three teams.
“Make it really competitive to get in, and then from there I think there’ll be a lot more competitive [teams] in the Super games and they’ll win more games and get confidence.”
Hansen said having a National Rugby Championship style competition, which would see teams from each state play against each other, would be ideal in Australia.
But he said the best players from that competition should be selected for the Super Rugby level.
“I think they are missing that one step between interstate and International rugby,” he said.
“I understand why they have as many Super teams as they do, because they want to encourage rugby to be a higher-profile sport in Australia.
“But I think they need to have another wee look at it and let’s have interstate [competition] and let’s have something above that.”
Pathways need improvement
The Wallabies suffered a record defeat to the All Blacks at Auckland’s Eden Park in the second Bledisloe Cup Test last Saturday, going down 57-22 to extend a 35-year drought at the venue for Australia against New Zealand.
Despite the record scoreline, the Wallabies were in the match at half-time, trailing 21-15, before the All Blacks scored five second-half tries.
According to Hansen, the Wallabies’ fade-out was a symptom of the level of domestic rugby being played in Australia.
“The intensity they played with in the first 40 minutes was world-class,” he said.
“Then the intensity dropped off as the game went on, and that’s because they’re not used to playing at that intensity.
“I don’t think the pathway allows that to happen, as well as it could do if you change it.”
Hansen said the way Australia played rugby union was not an issue when it came to the Wallabies being competitive.
“You have a look at the record between the All Blacks in Australia, Australia is the team over the last decade that has actually caused us more problems than any other team,” Hansen said.
“Each country has its own way of playing and own way of getting the game they need.
Hansen coached New Zealand to a World Cup win in 2015 and eight Bledisloe Cup series victories.
Under his leadership, the All Blacks won all 14 of their internationals in 2013, becoming the first team to achieve the feat in the professional era.
As All Blacks head coach, his record is outstanding, with 93 wins from 107 matches, and just 10 defeats.
Hansen was named World Rugby coach of the year four times, while the All Blacks were named team of the year on five consecutive occasions while he was at the helm.