He walked a long time on the lawn, his hands in his pockets. He sometimes took out one or both of them to greet someone who stayed in the tribune. Then he adjusted the collar of his suit tie, to close the march and go collect the medal of third. Not much, for a coach of the stature of Steve Hansen, already double world champion: in 2011 as a deputy, and in 2015 as a head coach.
Friday 1st November, the New Zealander played his last coaching match with the All Blacks: the third place, the "small final" of the World Cup, as it is called nicely. A solid victory over the Welsh (40-17), in an increasingly chilly Tokyo stadium, on the eve of the grand final, South Africa-England, scheduled in the outlying city of Yokohama.
A few meters away, the Welsh team is still in line, again on the pitch. With the same impetus, she is bowing to the public. Warren Gatland itou, at the end of the line. This other New Zealander was also finishing his last coaching match, but on the Welsh side. He too with a tie (red, like his team), and a cover in addition.
Funny common goodbyes – that is to say a little sad – for these two compatriots. Two examples of stability, Hansen in post with the New Zealanders since late 2011, Gatland with the Welsh since late 2007. To decide on Friday, "A drinking game" would have been possible. It was the joke of the president of the New Zealand Rugby Federation, Steve Tew, reported by Gatland. All this to say the limited interest of the match.
" A privilege "
But no, we played rugby. Rather well, as if to forget the defeats in the semifinals, against the English for the All Blacks, against the South Africans for the Welsh. Which Welsh are about to leave twelve years with Gatland, longevity as we do not see anymore. Especially when you compare it to the coming and going in the France team.
Visibly moved, he said he had "Great years in Wales." And met people just as "Formidable", "Incredibly welcoming". Which does not exclude, he assures us, from having "Already head to the next challenge". It will be in the native country. No more Welsh exile: next year, Warren Gatland will coach the New Zealand team of Waikato Chiefs, based in Hamilton, his hometown. Another challenge, more specific: the coach will coordinate for the third time the tour of the British and Irish Lions, in the summer of 2021, in South Africa.
Steve Hansen, on the other hand, could leave the country. For the now-former coach of the All Blacks, the rumor now evokes a position in a Japanese club. In which case he would join Kieran Read. Former Crusaders (Christchurch) third-row ready to join Toyota Verblitz formation. "This jersey means a lot, it's a whole part of my life"said the player Friday, for his last game as captain of the All Blacks, at age 34. Hansen, meanwhile, always giving the impression of swallowing the words, talking about "Privilege". That of having trained the best team in the world, and surely one of the most domineering in the history of his sport.
Kieran Read and Steve Hansen share a moment after their final match with @AllBlacks. #NZLvWAL # RWC2019 https://t.co/7a3xBTFILp
Whether it is one or the other, even clamor in the stadium at the end of the match. Same applause when the giant screens projected the face of Hansen, 60, then that of Gatland, four years younger. Without having had to utter a single word.
"We have very few fighters in Wales compared to other nations, so we're boxing well above our category. Warren Gatland
This is undoubtedly what we recognize such beautiful records. Hansen side, a World Cup (2015) and six Rugby Championship, this annual meeting with Australia, South Africa and Argentina. Results of these 108 meetings: only ten defeats. Gatland side: four titles at the Six Nations Tournament, including three Grand Slam events (2008, 2012 and 2019); performance after which the Blues have been running since 2010 … "We have very few licensees in Wales compared to other nations, so we're well above our category."Gatland, rightly, was right after the loss to South Africa. A defeat in half, as in 2011 against France, as in 1987 too. Without offering the Welsh, therefore, the first final of their history in nine editions of the World.
The world had met Steve Hansen, in November 2018, in a palace in Greater London. Individual appointments of ten minutes, which eventually doubled over the course of the conversation. It was before a test-match won against England. The coach spoke about his daughter, she also worn on rugby. "I was not really convinced that it was a sport for women. Which is probably pretty retrograde. And then I realized that it could be the case. " He had also mentioned his companion. "Does my wife want me to watch horse racing and rugby? No, she wants me to be at her side. She is the CEO of the family. " It remains to be seen whether the small business will move in the coming weeks or not.