Hansen cool about chances

Coach plays down All Blacks' prospects of claiming back-to-back World Cup triumphs

AUCKLAND • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen continued his theme of attempting to downplay expectations as his side prepared to leave yesterday for the rugby World Cup in England, emphasising the 2015 team were probably less arrogant than previous incarnations.

His side are not only the champions but also hot favourites to become the first side to triumph in successive tournaments and the first All Blacks team to win the Webb Ellis Cup overseas.

Since taking over as head coach in 2012, his team have played 47 Tests, winning 42. They lost just once to Australia, South Africa and England, while drawing twice against the Wallabies.

In 2013, they also had the first unbeaten season since the game went professional in 1995.

While not garnering as successful a record as the current side, previous teams have travelled to northern hemisphere tournaments with an underlying expectation from their rugby-mad compatriots that they just need to turn up to win the World Cup.


Rugby, or any sport, will tell you that if you rock up to a contest and expect it to happen, then the other guy will have something to say about that.

STEVE HANSEN All Blacks coach on why his team will play sensibly at the World Cup

Such expectations resulted in some serious mis-steps both on and off the field.

In 1999, they travelled in a plane with the fuselage sporting an imposing graphic of their front row.

In 2007, they continually rotated the team and selected an unfit player for the quarter-final against France to see if he would be match-fit for the semi-final.

Others selected for that match in Cardiff played out of position and France won the game 20-18.

"In 2007, I think we rocked up a little arrogant, like previous All Blacks teams over the years may have," Hansen told reporters in Auckland as they prepared to depart for Britain ahead of the Sept 18-Oct 31 tournament. "(We were) too comfortable, having come off being the No. 1 team for a long time and just expected it to happen.

"Rugby, or any sport, will tell you that if you rock up to a contest involving another person and expect it to happen, then the other guy or athletes will have something to say about that."

Yesterday's parting message, undoubtedly to also address the focus that will settle on his side from the British and international media when they reach London, was consistent with what Hansen had espoused when he named the team.

"There is not an expectation that we should win it by right," he said then. "We're not going to defend the World Cup because it's not ours to defend.

"It's already gone back."

Since the team's selection, the majority of the past 10 days have involved fulfilling commercial obligations and making public appearances. The squad, however, did have a two-hour contested session on Tuesday that replicated match conditions as they prepared for their opening Pool C game against Argentina on Sept 20.

"We've got to make sure we are battle-hardened over at the World Cup and we're ready to play," assistant coach Ian Foster said after the session that many had described as "physical".

"The last thing we want to do is put ourselves in cotton wool and worry about things (like injuries)."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2015, with the headline 'Hansen cool about chances'. Print Edition | Subscribe