Finger pointing ... Steve Hansen accuses Wallabies of poaching players. Photo: Getty Images
Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill has dismissed All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's accusation that the Wallabies are stealing New Zealand players as ''insulting'' and ''ill-informed''.
Hansen made the criticism when asked if New Zealand-raised Wallabies fullback Mike Harris's role in Australia's 18-18 draw with the All Blacks at the weekend indicated a problem with New Zealand's talent identification system.
''I am pleased [Harris] has achieved his dream … what I find frustrating is that Australia is trying to build their game and put more franchises in place but all they are doing is putting franchises in place and stealing our players,'' he said.
Claims are "insulting" ... John O'Neill. Photo: Getty Images
Australian rugby figures yesterday rounded on the All Blacks coach, pointing to the number of foreign players who had played for New Zealand.
''The comments from the All Blacks coach are insulting, ill-informed, and clearly made without reviewing New Zealand's history for fielding players born outside their borders,'' O'Neill said.
''I would not even want to guess how many players born in the South Pacific islands have worn the All Blacks jersey … The reality is there are players who will look for opportunities to play Test rugby.''
Rebels coach Damien Hill was unapologetic about his role in luring New Zealand-raised talent to Melbourne. As Australia's youngest Super Rugby franchise, the Rebels will be allowed up to 10 foreign players on their roster next season, with that number falling to six and then four over the next three years.
Hill has recruited four New Zealand players for next year, including rising Wellington player Jason Woodward, Otago back-rower Scott Fuglistaller, Auckland prop Pauliasi Manu, and New Zealand-raised Pat Leafa, who played in the Canberra club competition last year.
''I think [playing depth] is a fantastic attribute of New Zealand and no doubt it's the reason they're the current world champions … but if the opportunities arise you can't begrudge the player for taking it.'' Hill said.