New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has invited rivals to refer to his side by whatever name they see fit after Australia’s rugby bosses issued an apparent ban on their players using the term ‘All Blacks’ ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup final.
England’s former World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward introduced a similar ploy during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour in a bid to dilute the notion of All Black aura.
“They can call us whatever they want,” said Hansen. “Being Aussies, they probably will.”
Hansen has named an unchanged XV from his side’s 20-18 semi-final victory over South Africa for the final as defending champions New Zealand bid to become the first nation in history to retain the World Cup.
Their matchday squad has a combined tally of 1,339 caps, while fly-half Dan Carter, centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith and replacement hooker Keven Mealamu have all announced their intention to retire post-tournament.
Speculation remains rife that tomorrow’s showdown will also be the final international curtain call for skipper Richie McCaw, who is expected to call time on his record-breaking career.
“I think he’s the greatest player we’ve ever had play the game, certainly for New Zealand,” added Hansen.
“In my mind leaders are grown. You’re not born a leader, you learn through your experiences and a lot of those experiences can be negative ones. He’s now probably one of the greatest leaders of all time.”