All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had no excuses or regrets as his side’s eight-year hold on the World Cup ended with a 19-7 loss to England in the semifinal in Yokohama Saturday, stating simply that his team were beaten by a better side.
The 2003 champions rattled the All Blacks from the opening whistle with a Manu Tuilagi try in the second minute, setting the tone for the rest of the match as they put pressure on New Zealand’s lineout and at the breakdown.
They played much of the game inside New Zealand’s half, suffocated the All Blacks attack and will now meet the winner of Sunday’s second semifinal between Wales and South Africa.
“They were deserved winners,” Hansen told reporters. “You had two very, very good sides going at each other and the team that took the game won the game.
“We have got no regrets. I’m very proud of the All Blacks. They have played very well but we got beaten by a better side.”
The All Blacks had entered the tournament as favourites to win the Webb Ellis trophy for a third successive time but instead were left chasing a team who had undergone a major overhaul from the side that did not progress past the pool phase in 2015.
The loss was more significant because it signalled the end of an unprecedented era of success for the team under Hansen.
The 60-year-old had been involved with the side for 16 years, as an assistant for eight years under Graham Henry and then as head coach, and is stepping down after the tournament.
Under Hansen they had a win-rate approaching 90 percent as they continued to reshape the game and force the rest of the world to try and peg them back.
The forwards, however, were not as dominant or menacing as the side that won the 2015 tournament, with England’s pack far more destructive in contact and defence.
Against the fearless twin opensides of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, and faced with a career-defining performance from lock Maro Itoje, the All Blacks were first beaten up, then ground down.
The backs have also stuttered over the last two years in the face of the aggressive defences that have developed in the northern hemisphere and while they managed to get wide at times they were often smothered or forced out by covering tacklers.
“England were better than us at dominating the parts of the game that we wanted to dominate,” Hansen added.
“You have to give them credit and good luck to them next week.”