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In 2003 Steve Hansen led Wales to the Wooden Spoon.

Although Steve Hansen will today lead his team into Twickenham for the World Cup Final, back in 2003 he coached Wales to an embarrassing Wooden Spoon.

After Graham Henry parted company with Wales in 2002, the Welsh Rugby Union turned to Hansen to become their ninth coach in 13 years. Hansen’s appointed came following Henry’s contract being terminated by mutual consent after Wales’ moral sapping 30-16 loss to Argentina was sandwiched between two massive defeats against Ireland.

Ireland’s 54-10 win over Wales during the opening weekend of the 2002 Six Nations proved to be Henry’s last match in charge, with Hansen quickly installed. Although Wales lost narrowly to France, 37-33, during Hansen’s first game in charge, subsequent defeats to England and Scotland saw Wales only avoid the wooden spoon thanks to a 44-20 win over Italy.

That summer saw Hansen’s side lose both tour games against South Africa. Although Wales beat Romania, Fiji and Canada during the following November, they suffered a 43-17 defeat to New Zealand.

That defeat signaled the beginning of a 10 game losing streak, which included a 30-22 loss to Italy and the ignominy of being awarded the 2003 wooden spoon. Despite a strong performance against the All Blacks in the pool stage of the 2003 World Cup, Wales crashed out at the Quarter Final stage after a 28-17 defeat to England.

The 2004 Six Nations saw Wales win only two games against Italy and Scotland and marked the end of Hansen’s spell as Wales coach. Wales won only 10 of their 29 games under Hansen’s unsuccessful reign, and was replaced by Mike Ruddock.

In Ruddock’s first year in charge, Wales won their first Grand Slam since 1978 as Hansen became Graham Henry’s assistant.

Ironically though, while Ruddock now coaches the Ireland under 20s, Steve Hansen has led the All Blacks to their second consecutive World Cup.

Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena



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