This is big­ger than play­ing the Lions, claims Hansen

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport / Rugby Union - By Ben Coles

Steve Hansen, the New Zealand head coach, has boldly la­belled to­mor­row’s first Test against Eng­land in four years as “even big­ger” than his side’s re­cently drawn Test series with the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions.

Hansen cited New Zealand’s fail­ure to win last year’s Lions series as ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion ahead of their first match against Eng­land since 2014.

A num­ber of Ed­die Jones’s key play­ers were in­volved in the drawn third Test be­tween the Lions and the All Blacks at Eden Park in 2017, in­clud­ing four of Eng­land’s starters to­mor­row – Maro Itoje, Owen Far­rell, Kyle Sinck­ler and El­liot Daly.

“I think [the Eng­land game] is even big­ger than that,” ex­plained Hansen. “The Lions tour has made it big­ger be­cause we only drew the series. To us that wasn’t suc­cess­ful. That has made this week have a sharper edge to it, which is good.

“Ev­ery­one un­der­stands how big it is. There’s been a real buzz from

the mo­ment we got to name the tour squad. We un­der­stand our his­tory and who we are and you’ve got to be rea­son­ably stupid if you can’t work out this is go­ing to be big.

“There’s go­ing to be 80,000 peo­ple, it’s all over the pa­pers, ev­ery­this one’s talk­ing about it, you can’t get a ticket, so you’d have to be on hol­i­day, I reckon, to not work out this is go­ing to be big. And we ain’t got any­one on hol­i­day this week.”

Hansen also dis­missed the no­tion that Eng­land’s chances of vic­tory had al­ready been writ­ten off af­ter key in­juries to their pack.

“I don’t know who is writ­ing them off. It would be fool­ish to do that. Does it put pres­sure on us? No. The one con­stant about be­ing in the All Blacks is that you are al­ways un­der pres­sure – you are ex­pected to win ev­ery Test, and win it re­ally well.”

Loose­head prop Karl Tu’inukuafe, a for­mer night­club bouncer who once tipped the scales at 26st, will make just his fifth start for the All Blacks fol­low­ing an eye in­jury to Joe Moody.

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