New Zealand play down favourites tag ahead of World Cup opener

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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says his side can deal with the pressure of defending their World Cup title

New Zealand play down favourites tag ahead of World Cup opener

SHOWS: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (SEPTEMBER 19, 2015) (REUTERS – FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND HEAD COACH STEVE HANSEN, SAYING:

“We have turned up with a nice mixture of people, with experience and excitement and enthusiasm and all of those guys are in good form. I don’t think we should be afraid of the favouritism tag – it is something we live with all the time anyway – and we shouldn’t be afraid of all the expectations that come with being the All Blacks, because you get that all the time anyway. You are expected to win every test match.”

2. WHITE FLASH

3. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND FLY HALF, DAN CARTER, SAYING:

“The excitement levels are right up there. I think there has been fantastic preparation and it is good to be here in London and on the eve of our first game. I can assure you that myself and the rest of the team are pretty excited about tomorrow. We have actually had to sort of pull back a little bit on the excitement to work on our accuracy. Saying that – tomorrow cannot come quick enough.”

STORY: New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says the All Blacks come into every game as favourites, so his side can deal with the pressure of defending their World Cup title, starting against Argentina at Wembley on Sunday (September 20).

No one expects the All Blacks to suffer any mishaps on their way to the business end of the tournament as they set out to repeat their 2011 triumph but Hansen’s side face their toughest Pool C opponents first up.

While he also expects physical tests from lesser lights Tonga and Georgia, coach Hansen knows the Pumas have the forward power to ruffle their feathers, especially in the scrum where front three Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles and Owen Franks can expect a combative afternoon.

New Zealand beat the Pumas in the quarter-finals four years ago and have won 20 out of 21 encounters and drawn the other against the South Americans — the most recent a 39-18 victory in Christchurch in July.

Hansen, though, has taken no chances by naming his strongest side possible — the XV he will send out on to the field is the most experienced ever in a test match with over 1,000 caps between them.

“We have turned up with a nice mixture of people, with experience and excitement and enthusiasm and all of those guys are in good form. I don’t think we should be afraid of the favouritism tag – it is something we live with all the time anyway – and we shouldn’t be afraid of all the expectations that come with being the All Blacks, because you get that all the time anyway. You are expected to win every test match,” said Hansen at a news conference on Saturday (September 19).

Potent scrummagers Argentina have been preaching a team ethic in the build-up and there is no doubt that competing in the Rugby Championship since 2012 and going toe-to-toe with the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa has been a huge boost for their game.

While consistency still eludes them, victory last year over the Wallabies and a first road win against the Springboks in Durban on Aug. 9 underlined the capabilities of Daniel Hourcade’s men.

New Zealand fly half Dan Carter says the Kiwis are aware of the threat posed by Argentina but also let on that the All Blacks are so excited to get started on Sunday that they are almost struggling to keep a lid on their enthusiasm.

“The excitement levels are right up there. I think there has been fantastic preparation and it is good to be here in London and on the eve of our first game,” said Carter.

“I can assure you that myself and the rest of the team are pretty excited about tomorrow. We have actually had to sort of pull back a little bit on the excitement to work on our accuracy. Saying that – tomorrow cannot come quick enough.”

The All Blacks are widely regarded as the best team in the world but both their previous world cup victories, in 1987 and most recently in 2011 came on home turf.

New Zealand have tended to stutter at world cups played away from their islands, but Carter says his team are determined to win in the northern hemisphere and become the first team to win back-to-back world cups.

Tags : Opener, ahead, Favourites, down, play, Zealand

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