Sydney - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes the Wallabies are not
to be underestimated when the sides clash in the opening round of the Rugby Championship
in Sydney on Saturday.
Hansen believes that due to only one Australian franchise
qualifying for the Super Rugby play-offs and that side going out at the
quarter-final stages, the national team had longer to prepare as a result.
The 58-year-old mentor is also wary of the fact that the
Wallabies will be a wounded beast playing for pride after a disastrous Super
Rugby season and with Australian rugby in turmoil with the axing of the Force
and Bill Pulver's subsequent resignation from the ARU hotseat.
“They’ve got a lot of talent and they’ve had a great
preparation,” he said on Thursday.
“While franchise fans weren’t probably overexcited about the
fact that they got knocked out early and would rather have seen them play right
through to the final and have less preparation time, those two things make them
a dangerous beast.
“The third thing that makes the really dangerous is their
desire to try to help Australian rugby and at the moment it has a bit of a
cloud over it and they haven’t won the Bledisloe in a long time.
“They’re pretty hungry for it so, as a team, we have to be
hungrier than them, otherwise we’re at a disadvantage.”
Hansen too has pride to protect. He is desperate to maintain
a proud New Zealand Bledisloe Cup record, which hasn't seen them relinquish the
Cup in 19 long years.
“Bledisloe is something we hold dearly in New Zealand rugby
and someone’s going to lose it and you don’t want to be that person,” he said.
“But you don’t want to be burdened by that either. That’s an
“It’s the biggest trophy we play for outside of the World
Cup and it means a lot to the group – it’s part of who are we, and our legacy
is about honouring, respecting and enhancing the jersey.
“We’ve held this trophy for a while, and no one wants to be
part of giving it up.”
And Hansen has equated the rivalry between the trans-Tasman
rivals to that of a big brother versus little brother scenario.
“Australia and New Zealand have done a lot of things
together and not just play rugby and all sports,” he said.
“And it’s a big brother-little brother backyard game and the
little brother doesn’t like losing to the big brother and the big brother
certainly doesn’t like losing to the little brother. It creates a tension.
“And when the little brother appears to be winning more than
he should be, you probably get a little bit hacked off about it and it does
create a bit of resentment.
“But I think the rivalry is good. There is a lot of support
from New Zealand towards Australian rugby. We need them to be strong and we
need that rivalry to be strong.”