Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen on Tuesday said he did not mean to rile Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika by suggesting the Australian had let England mentor Eddie Jones bully him.
After England claimed an unprecedented series victory in Australia last month, Hansen said he was puzzled the normally feisty Cheika had refused to respond to Jones' verbal jibes.
Cheika labelled Hansen's comments "shallow" and said "it's easy to kick blokes when they're down", vowing the Wallabies would bounce back.
Hansen, whose All Blacks face Australia in the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on August 20, said he meant no offence.
"It wasn't directed at Michael, I just thought that Eddie had dominated him a wee bit in the media and he took it quite personal," Hansen told Radio Sport.
"It wasn't meant to be personal."
Hansen dismissed suggestions that the poor form of Australian Super Rugby teams, who have lost 20 of their 24 clashes with New Zealand sides so far this season, meant trouble for the Wallabies.
"History tells you it doesn't matter where you finish in the Super Rugby, it's how you come together as a national team," he said.
"Australia, I think, will field a very, very strong side, they'll be hurting after their 3-0 loss to England and they'll be competitive."
Hansen also revealed that cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams would slot straight back into the All Blacks after representing New Zealand in sevens at the Olympic Games.
"As long as he's injury-free we'll name him in the Rugby Championship team, then give him whatever time he needs, whether it's one Test or two Tests," he said.
"He won't be available for the first one then we'll see how he's travelling. He'll play some time during that competition."
It means Williams could return for the All Blacks' second Championship fixture against Australia in Wellington on August 27.