WELLINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Connacht coach Pat Lam has fired back at his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen after being singled out for criticism and called an "ex-New Zealander" for his role in coaxing Steven Luatua to English club rugby next year.
Lam, who was born in Auckland and played one game for the All Blacks and represented Samoa at three Rugby World Cups, takes over at Bristol next season.
Luatua confirmed this week he would join Bristol on a two-year contract. The decision upset Hansen, who said he had not had an opportunity to discuss the move with the rangy loose forward. Only players contracted to New Zealand Rugby are eligible for the All Blacks.
"He spoke briefly to the contracts team, and he's been tapped on the shoulder by Pat Lam which is disappointing too," Hansen told Fairfax Media this week. "If you're an ex-New Zealander you should be a bit mindful about players' careers."
Lam, whose parents are Samoan, took exception to Hansen's comments and said he had had the "privilege and honour" of representing both New Zealand and Samoa.
"I am not sure why Steve Hansen would unprecedentedly choose to single me out publicly and call me an 'ex-New Zealander,'" Lam said in a statement to New Zealand media on Thursday.
"I am a proud New Zealander and I'm also proud to be a Pacific Islander.
"The only reason we don't live in New Zealand at the moment is I had an opportunity to continue to coach rugby professionally in Ireland and support my family after being sacked by the NZRU and the Blues."
Lam coached the Auckland Blues from 2009-12 before moving to Ireland's Connacht in 2013, leading them to their first piece of silverware last season when they won the Pro-12 title. He said last December he was moving to Bristol.
"Did Steve Hansen consider himself an ex-New Zealander when he chose to leave New Zealand and coach the Wales national team against the All Blacks?" Lam added in reference to Hansen's stint with Wales from 2002-04.
"Myself and I'm sure many other New Zealanders who are living and working overseas do not consider ourselves ex-New Zealanders just because we are not living in New Zealand.
"When I have joined the thousands of other northern-based Kiwis who attended and cheered on the All Blacks in their test matches in the northern hemisphere we certainly didn't do so as ex-New Zealanders."
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford