Steve Hansen labels Michael Cheika ‘Mickey Mouse’ to stoke the flames ahead of Rugby World Cup

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jack de Menezes
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Steve Hansen has stoked the flames of the Antipodean rivalry between New Zealand and Australia by claiming the Wallabies have “Mickey Mouse” in charge, in reference to Michael Cheika’s inability to handle his emotions when it comes to mind games.

Cheika has endured a turbulent few months as Australia lost three of their four autumn internationals last November, fresh off the back of a poor Rugby Championship campaign. Their lack of form led to a restructuring of the Australian national team backroom staff, with Scott Johnson brought in as new director of rugby with the ARU and Cheika told to “report to Johnson” alongside an independent selector, while attack coach Stephen Larkham was abruptly axed this week due to “differences in attacking strategy and overall game philosophy”.

The dust has not even started to settle, yet Hansen could not help but fire a shot at Cheika for the way he has been able to get under his skin during their rugby rivalry.

When former Australia international Mark Ella’s remark that “Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks to victory” was brought up to Hansen at a Circa Theatre fundraiser in Auckland on Monday night, he responded: "They've got Mickey Mouse coaching Aussie.

"Michael Cheika, who by the way isn't a bad bloke, he just gets a bit emotional, and as you well know we thought we'd get him emotional and take his mind off the job.

"I guess what we're trying to do there is take his mind off the job and while I say he's not a bad bloke, he's got to control his emotions. I think he's got a good side, he does a good job of the coaching, but sometimes he just lets himself down there."

Cheika was just one of many coaches who Hansen offered his thoughts on, with the All Blacks boss very positive about England’s Eddie Jones and Ireland’s Joe Schmidt, and less so about Wales’ Warren Gatland who cropped up on his radar during the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour.

Gatland and his family were targeted in the lead up to the Test series, predominantly from the Kiwi media, but he also found himself in a back-and-forth war of words with Hansen that was threatening to spiral out of control until the New Zealand Herald mocked up Gatland as a clown on their front page ahead of the second Test – a match that the Lions subsequently won.

Cheika has faced a difficult few months with Australia (Getty)
Cheika has faced a difficult few months with Australia (Getty)
Gatland was pictured dressed as a clown on the front of the New Zealand Herald (Getty)
Gatland was pictured dressed as a clown on the front of the New Zealand Herald (Getty)

"We probably had him [Gatland] where we needed him and then the bloody Herald made a picture of him as a clown, which I didn't think was right, so I had to back off," Hansen said, before adding on Jones and Schmidt: "[Eddie] likes to be praised so we praise him ... at the end of the day, I enjoy Eddie a lot because he's passionate about the game.

"[Schmidt] is a good coach and he is a mate. We've done a lot of coaching against each other here in New Zealand and at one stage we nearly coached Auckland together with Graham [Henry]."