After an impressive 2014, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has challenged his team to win an unprecedented back-to-back World Cup.
After an impressive 2014, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has challenged his team to win an unprecedented back-to-back World Cup in 2015.
Since their 2011 triumph, the All Blacks have been in awesome form, this season only losing one match to the Boks after having already wrapped up a third successive Rugby Championship.
And Hansen, speaking after his team produced a second-half five-try fest to see off Wales 34-16 on Saturday, was in no doubt about what lay ahead.
“No one’s won back-to-back World Cups so we shouldn’t even be the favourites, but we will be because we’re the number one side in the world,” said Hansen.
“If you’re a betting man you wouldn’t punt on us because it’s not happened. But it’s a great challenge because it has to happen one day so why not us? So that’s our challenge, and that’s massive because no one else’s done it.
“And that’s great because to win the World Cup you’ve got to be hungry, and maybe in the past we haven’t been hungry enough.”
Hansen added: “In 2007, we should have won it but we weren’t the right dog because we didn’t turn up with the right attitude. The reality is that we came expecting to win it.
“You have to go out and earn the right to win it.
“Everybody who rocks up at the World Cup, they’ll have their formula, they’ll use the luck you get because everyone gets luck, good and bad, it’s about how you use it, then anyone can win this World Cup.
“It’s been proven time and time again, you don’t have to be the top dog to win, just the right dog.”
Rather worryingly for potential opponents, Hansen added: “We go into next year knowing that we have 45-50 players who, if all fit, are capable of giving us a really good nucleus of 31 players.
“The reality is we’ll have to improve our game again next year to have any chance to make the quarter-finals.”
Turning to the entertaining match against Wales, which his team were losing 16-15 with 11 minutes to play, Hansen said it was all about lasting the 80 minutes, made harder for the home side because of their doughty defensive effort.
“It’s called a Test match because it’s a test of both your physical and your mental attributes, so when you play a good side you’re really getting tested for longer than 50 minutes,” said Hansen, who was coach of Wales between 2002-4.
“I would’t say we were really rattled but we were certainly tested.
“But 10 minutes after half-time you could see the game swinging around, us being accurate and making sure we took the opportunities that arose. It’s all about being composed when you’re under that pressure.
“To ask a team (Wales) to have that much energy defensively for a whole game, I think it’s just about impossible.
“I don’t think fitness was issue. The issue was that they had to defend for a long period of the game.”