By Liam Napier in Yokohama
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen offered no excuses for his side’s Rugby World Cup semifinal exit, graciously paying tribute to England’s superiority.
England stunned the All Blacks with relentless physicality and superb defensive line speed to reach their first World Cup final for 12 years.
Their 19-7 victory in Yokohama could have been more commanding but for two tries they rightly had called back by the TMO.
For Hansen and the All Blacks, this is a cruel way to end the quest for three successive World Cup titles.
Hansen was there as assistant coach alongside Graham Henry and Wayne Smith in 2011 and he then took charge to guide the All Blacks to their 2015 triumph.
Now he endures the pain of losing a semifinal.
“Firstly, congratulations to England,” Hansen said. “They were deserved winners tonight. You had two very good sides going at each other. The team that took the game, won the game. We’ve got no regrets I’m very proud of the All Blacks. Tonight we got beaten by a better side.
“I wish England the best for what’s ahead of them.
“The boys are desperately hurting, as are the management. They’re a good team, there’s no shame in losing to them.”
Hansen accepted responsibility for the one tactical change he made to the All Blacks starting side, having pushed Scott Barrett into blindside and benching Sam Cane in order to target England’s lineout.
The move did not pay off as expected, with England dominating the lineout to the point they snaffled two from the All Blacks throws while their twin opensides Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, together with lock Maro Itoje, killed the breakdown.
“If I turn around and say it backfired Scott is going to feel pretty average so I’m not going to say that. I’ll take that one on the chin. Scotty came out and played the best he could but did we want to win more lineout ball, yeah we did. It takes more than one person to do that.
“If we had our time again we might consider doing something different.”
After losing their first World Cup game since 2007, the All Blacks are now forced to contest the third and fourth playoff, as they did in 2003 and 1999.
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“Having been here in 2007, it’s disappointing. There’s nothing else you can say about that. The big difference is we stepped up to the plate today. We played as well as we could we just got beaten by a better team so we’ve got to take that on the chin.
“We see the character of people when we win and we’ve got to see that now when we lose.
“Heck of a disappointment but we’ve got one more game to go so we’ll talk about finishing when we get that one out of the way.
“They created the go forward. We struggled to dominate them at set piece and breakdown. When you go forward you get the 50/50 decisions – that’s not trying to make an excuse that’s just what happens. You have to chase the game and you make fundamental errors because you’re desperate.
“The guys were giving their best but England dominated parts of the game we wanted to dominate and that’s why you’ve got to give them credit.”