New Zealand
Hansen tells wantaway players to 'dig in'
ESPN Staff
April 23, 2014
Bundee Aki's choice to pursue a career with Ireland has annoyed Steve Hansen © Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has laid down the law to New Zealand's fringe players and those waiting for an international call-up telling them to "dig in harder and fight for the dream they really want".

Hansen's comments come in the wake of Chiefs centre Bundee Aki's decision to join Connacht ahead of next season. Upon signing for his new province, Aki said the decision was influenced by his desire to play his way into the Ireland team, something he hoped to achieve after qualifying for residency in the country.

Aki said he felt his chances of playing for the All Blacks were limited and instead turned his attention to Ireland with Samoa a fallback option.

"That's a big part of my decision to move," Aki told Fairfax Media. "Hopefully when the time is right and if I'm playing good footy, hopefully I can play for the Ireland international team. I've got to play well before that though. I'm eligible for Samoa. That was another big decision for myself - to see if I would play for them or not. If I play three years over there and it doesn't go well, I can always go back to Samoa."

Aki's comments and the growing trend of New Zealanders looking abroad for international rugby has angered Hansen who said a decision to give up on the All Blacks for the sake of playing elsewhere was the "easy option".

"It is frustrating and it is disappointing," Hansen told the Herald on Sunday. "Players here have a dream of playing for the All Blacks and then they suddenly give it up when an easier option comes along. It's not their dream but they decide to go for it and I think we need players with a bit more mental fortitude: a bit more of a constitution to dig in harder and fight for the dream they really want."

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