All Blacks coach Steve Hansen reckons Australia’s Michael Cheika has let England counterpart Eddie Jones bully him verbally this month, laying the platform for the tourists’ series win.
Wallabies coach Cheika has forged a reputation for playing mind games with opponents in the past so Hansen doesn’t know why he has let Jones stamp all over him in the pre-Test jousts this month.
England went 2-0 up with their 23-7 win in the second Test at Melbourne on Saturday, handing Cheika the first major setback of his reign.
Hansen says he made a mistake by choosing not to engage with his former Randwick clubmate Jones, who has taken various swipes at the home side over a range of issues.
The respective attitudes had infiltrated into the minds of players from both teams, Hansen believes.
“Cheika’s not come back, he’s letting Eddie have a free rein – to the point where it actually seems like he’s letting Eddie bully him in the media,” Hansen told NZ Newswire.
“I don’t know if that’s because they know each other that well, or if there’s a pecking order from the old days.
“That’s gone on to the park, hasn’t it?”
Hansen believes Australia are a good side but it is clear England have made strides under Jones since their humiliating early exit as hosts from last year’s World Cup.
He believes Ireland have been similarly driven in their series in South Africa, where they won the first Test and came close to securing the series in Johannesburg on Saturday but blew a 26-10 lead midway through the second half to lose 32-26.
“This is a chance for them to make a statement, and both teams are making it,” he said.
“If there’s a changing of the guard, then that’s great I reckon. The more teams we have that are competitive, the better it is for the game.”
Hansen wouldn’t be drawn on a suggestion Jones is now the front-runner to coach the British and Irish Lions when they tour New Zealand next year.
“It doesn’t matter who the coach is, they’re going to be pretty good,” he said.