COOL ALL BLACKS

Hansen plays down Eng­land World Cup threat

New Straits Times - - Sport -

KYOTO

“We know South Africa very well,” added Hansen, look­ing ahead to New Zealand’s first ever group clash with the Spring­boks, who mem­o­rably beat the All Blacks in an emo­tional 1995 fi­nal.

“It’s go­ing to be one of the games of the tour­na­ment.”

The All Blacks will be chas­ing a hat-trick of World Cup ti­tles in Ja­pan to un­der­line their re­cent dom­i­nance of the sport.

“It’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing,” smiled Hansen. “Ev­ery­one is say­ing that Pool C is the pool of death.

“But Eng­land will be like us — just look­ing for­ward to get­ting here. They’re one of our ri­vals, along with South Africa, Aus­tralia and France.”

On re­cent form Eng­land ap­pear best placed to pro­vide New Zealand’s big­gest threat de­spite their calami­tous 2015 World Cup, when they be­came the first host na­tion to fail to es­cape the pool stages.

The English have added steel un­der coach Ed­die Jones, equalling New Zealand’s worl­drecord 18 straight Test wins be­fore Ire­land pre­vented them from com­plet­ing back-to-back Grand Slams in March.

“His­tory shows that you need to win seven games to win the World Cup,” said Jones.

“To get through to the fi­nal we’re go­ing to have to be bul­let­proof.” While Eng­land face fur­ther bruis­ing tests against ei­ther the United States or Canada, and Fiji or Samoa, New Zealand should en­counter far less re­sis­tance be­fore the knock­out phase.

The All Blacks could rack up huge scores against the likes of Namibia and po­ten­tially Uruguay or Kenya.

“Ob­vi­ously with heat and hu­mid­ity it’s some­thing we need to plan for,” said Hansen, iden­ti­fy­ing one pos­si­ble cause for con­cern.

“Will we play any games in Ja­pan be­tween now and then? We will have to wait and see. But it wouldn’t be a silly idea.” AFP

REUTERS PIC

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen ar­rives with the Wil­liam Webb El­lis Cup at the World Cup 2019 pool draw in Kyoto on Wed­nes­day.

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