This is bigger than playing the Lions, claims Hansen
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.