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Hansen offers angry Cheika peace drink

NZN 22/10/2016 Darren Walton

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has called for a ceasefire in verbal warfare with Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika which has plunged trans-Tasman rugby relations to an all-time low.

Refusing to be gagged, Cheika on Sunday wasn't backing down after Hansen accusing him of "hijacking" New Zealand's Test world-record celebrations.

In a sensational aftermath to Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup series finale in Auckland, Cheika took aim at New Zealand media over being depicted as a clown and then claimed the All Blacks did not respect the Wallabies, suggesting they were involved in the caricature.

Seething after being portrayed as an angry clown in a mock up picture in the country's biggest paper, the New Zealand Herald, alongside the headline "send in the clowns", Cheika let rip in an extraordinary rant after Australia's 37-10 loss at Eden Park.

Hansen hit back at a "sulking" Cheika and said he needed to be bigger than to take a newspaper's barb to heart and that it was wrong to suggest the All Blacks could dictate what the media did.

But on Sunday Hansen softened his stance and extended an olive branch to Cheika for the good of rugby in Australasia.

"For a long time the relationship with Australia has probably been a little frosty and maybe we need to sit down and have a beer together and sort it out," Hansen told Australian reporters, describing the Wallabies as a "formidable opponent" and important ally.

"But I think some of it comes down to the fact that the Bledisloe Cup means so much to both teams and when one team's having a dominant period like we're at the moment, the other team really gets frustrated.

"It's how you deal with those frustrations and how you handle yourself when you're winning, I guess, is important.

"This week we've tried to play a pretty straight bat and not tried to aggravate anyone. Our media didn't help with the clown thing but that's the media. It's not us.

"But at the same time you've got to look at your own history and your own backyard and there's been plenty of people who've had a crack at (former All Blacks captain Richie) McCaw and so forth."

Hansen said he had empathy for Cheika.

"I lost 10 Tests in a row with Wales and it was tough. Of course you get hurt by it," he said.

"It's how you deal with the adversity that's important."

Whether or not Cheika buries the hatchet remains to be seen.

He was still stewing upon his arrival back at Sydney airport on Sunday.

"Why would you let the opposition call your team clowns and mock the jersey? That's how I feel about it," he said.

"Maybe others don't. Maybe that's not the way. But I've never had an Australian jersey so I think it's something that should be treasured.

"We're going there for a good contest and I think they (All Blacks) are connected to it (the photo mock up) obviously because they are talking about it.

"That's my opinion and I'm entitled to voice my opinion, right or wrong."

Cheika was also upset at not receiving an invitation into the triumphant dressing room after the All Blacks chalked up their unprecedented 18th consecutive tier-one Test match win.

He admitted the Sydney bugging saga had been the spark that set him off, saying he was deeply offended by any inference the Wallabies camp could have been involved in the spying scandal.

Cheika remains furious the bugging report came out in the NZ Herald on the day of the first Bledisloe Test match in Sydney, after All Blacks management had alerted police about finding an electronic listening device in a team room early in the week.

"We had policemen in our offices asking us questions, asking our management questions. That's serious stuff to be accusing people of and it's not true," he said.

"That's their go-to (newspaper). Nothing happens without that connection.

"That's my point of view. They don't have to agree with it. I'm not asking them to agree with it."

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