France looking like firm World Cup favourites

By George Davis and Brent Sancho July 10, 2018

Having improved game by game Brent Sancho believes it will be tough for either England or Croatia to beat France.

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    Aymeric Laporte believes France coach Didier Deschamps has "personal reasons" for not yet handing him a Les Bleus debut.

  • Hansen to leave: All Blacks coach returning focus to World Cup defence Hansen to leave: All Blacks coach returning focus to World Cup defence

    Steve Hansen is happy his focus can now return to retaining the Rugby World Cup after confirming his plans to leave New Zealand after the tournament.

    Hansen has been the All Blacks' head coach since 2011, having previously served as an assistant, leading the team to a world title defence in 2015 as well as six Rugby Championship triumphs.

    There had been speculation surrounding Hansen in recent months, but he can now concentrate on the 2019 RWC in Tokyo and a potential third consecutive win before departing.

    "The turbulence of trying to find a replacement straight after a World Cup, whether it's been a good one or a bad one, is not really the way to do the process," he told reporters. "I'm really pleased about the timing of it.

    "It also allows me not to be distracted by you guys [the media] asking me about it every five minutes. That'll be great. We'll be able to concentrate on what we want to do, which is trying to win a World Cup."

    He added: "What's next? You'll all be interested, but I don't know. I can't tell you, so don't bother asking.

    "I'm not focusing on what's next. What I'm focusing on is making sure that we get to next year, trying to retain that Bledisloe Cup and then trying to do something which has never been done before, which is to win three World Cups in a row.

    "I'm highly motivated by that and really excited, as is the whole group."

    And Hansen is adamant that this is the right decision, despite his continued success with the All Blacks.

    "I'd like to coach this team for the rest of my living days, but that's not the right thing to do," he said. "I wouldn't say it's a close call, it's just the right call.

    "If I said I had a lack of passion, I would be finishing today. [Why are you quitting?] is a question people are entitled to ask, but they don't live in your shoes and they don't live in the team's shoes.

    "My responsibility is the team and my family. That's how I've got to this conclusion. I appreciate all the support but, at the end of the day, it's my job to make the right decisions for myself and the team and my family."

  • Hansen to leave: All Blacks will take time to name replacement Hansen to leave: All Blacks will take time to name replacement

    Brent Impey says the "proper process" to replace New Zealand coach Steve Hansen will not begin until after next year's Rugby World Cup.

    Hansen announced his plan to depart after the tournament on Friday, bringing an end to a tenure that has so far featured one world title and six Rugby Championships.

    However, despite being granted an extended period by Hansen to now make a move on the next coach, Impey is keen to first ensure there is no distraction from the All Blacks' efforts in Japan.

    The All Blacks chairman acknowledges that he and his colleagues are aware of the leading candidates and some conversations will take place, but an appointment will wait.

    "All potential candidates we have relationships with," Impey told reporters on Friday. "They'll now all know, as a result of today, so I don't think we'll now have to put out an advertisement for the gig.

    "We will be talking to them and the proper process will start after the World Cup. We've made a very deliberate move that we're not going to engage in a formal process while we've got the runway through to the end of Tokyo.

    "We don't want any distractions from the team's performance. After that, we've got time before things kick off in 2020."

    New Zealand CEO Steve Tew added that they will look to get Hansen's advice, but the coach will not be involved in the recruitment process.

    Asked if Hansen could now instead take up a more senior role, he explained: "Whenever you lose someone who's been around for a long time, there's a desire to (a) protect what they know and make sure it doesn't go somewhere else and (b) to make sure that we transition.

    "I know Steve's been very strong on growing the people around him and the succession process inside that team is well advanced.

    "But we'll leave that conversation until after the Rugby World Cup and then we'll come back to it and see what he wants to do."

    Hansen was himself asked if assistant Ian Foster, a mooted option, would be suited for the role, but the 59-year-old would prefer to leave the decisions to others.

    "I think [Foster] would be a great head coach," Hansen said. "He's developed as a coach, as a man and he's got some great qualities.

    "But I don't think it's right that I sit here and say, 'that guy should do the job' or 'that guy should do the job'. I think it's the rugby union's job.

    "I've got my opinions and, for one of the very few times in my life, I'll probably keep that opinion to myself. I don't think it's right for the process."

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