Hansen wants All Blacks to embrace World Cup pressure

Hansen wants All Blacks to embrace World Cup pressure”

For members of the New Zealand Defence Force, going into battle is something that they're trained to do - only this time their battlefield will be the rugby fields of Japan.

World champions in 2011 and 2015, the All Blacks have shown the odd chink in their armour in the run-up to Japan, losing recently to fierce rivals Australia and drawing against the Springboks in Wellington during the Rugby Championship.

Tonga managed to get on the board late in the one-sided game, but it was all about New Zealand, who were led by winger George Bridge's four tries at Waikato Stadium.

"He played 40 last week [in Canterbury's 80-0 Mitre 10 Cup victory over Southland] and 65 today and will be good to go in a couple of weeks".

Coach Steve Hansen is happy with where they're at.

"That's what rugby's about, and we play a massive game in two weeks". We have had a good build up. "I think he's still a bit shell-shocked to tell you the truth but what a wonderful opportunity".

The World Cup victor thinks there are already enough obstacles in the way of countries such as Tonga without making things even more hard on them.

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It was an effort that employed all 15 players delivering a high-octane performance, with even tight-head prop Nepo Laulala producing one-handed off-loads in a quality impression of Sonny Bill Williams.

"It´s a unique challenge and if we really embrace that, and have fun doing it, then that helps you deal with all the pressure that comes with it".

Hansen and co have largely settled on their first choice team.

Aaron Smith should be at halfback and I can't find room for Ben Smith for the clash with South Africa.

They will later play Canada, Namibia and Italy in Pool B and could play either Ireland or Scotland in the quarter-finals. We have been blessed with very few injuries thanks to the great work of the medical team and it has meant that we've been able to rotate players into positions to give everyone decent game time without compromising on results - although we had our lucky moments.

Saturday's win over Tonga was the last time Hansen and many players would represent the All Blacks on New Zealand soil and while it's something he'll look back on fondly, he said now is not the time for sentiment.

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