Steve Hansen (Gallo)
London - Talk of New Zealand posting a
century or more against minnows Namibia in a World Cup clash is way off the
mark, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who believes the days of
high-scoring records are over.
Namibia's claim to World Cup fame is being
the victims of the biggest losing margin when beaten by Australia 142-0 in
2003, while the All Blacks hold the record for the highest score in the
tournament's history when they whipped Japan 145-17 in 1995.
Hansen has taken the liberty of resting
most of his first-choice players for Thursday's Pool C match between the top
and bottom ranked sides at London's Olympic Stadium, but said New Zealand were
not taking it easy.
"We can't assume Namibia are going to
lie down because they won't," Hansen said on Wednesday. "They'll be
proud men and they'll come out and give it everything they've got and they'll
ask questions of us for sure."
There have been six century scores in the
game's global showpiece, now into its eighth tournament, but Hansen suspects
such totals are a thing of the past given the growing strength in depth of
international rugby union.
"The game's changed a heck of a lot
since '95," he said. "World Rugby's spent a lot of time and energy
and money trying to help the so-called minnows of the game to improve and I
think by and large they've been successful in doing that," he said.
"It's taken a long time but it's
happening, so things like that I don't think are as up for grabs like they used
"If someone's going out thinking he's
going to get records, I'd say he's in the wrong mental state in today's
Hansen singled out inspirational Namibia
captain Jacques Burger, the Saracens flanker, as a world-class player who can
make a difference to a game.
"He's a pretty special player. The
last tournament he was in the top five, so to be able to do that in a team that
wasn't always going forward, as a loose forward you've got to be pretty good.
"He's totally committed. If you're in
his part of the park and you're carrying the ball, you better get ready to get
smashed, so you've got to admire that in him."
All Blacks back-row Victor Vitos said they
had done their homework on Burger and his fellow Namibian loosies Leneve Damens
and Tinus du Plessis, and were ready for a tough night.
"I'm ready to get smashed," he
said, echoing Hansen's view of Burger.
"I've done a bit of (video) work on
all their loose forwards and you've got to get ready to get belted because
people might say they've been written off but these guys are going to be ready
to stand up, and in all the games I've seen they've never laid down."
While Hansen doubts records will fall, if,
as seems all but inevitable, the All Blacks pass 26 points it will make Namibia
the second team behind Japan to concede 1,000 points in the World Cup.
Namibia are in line to achieve this
unwanted record in only their 16th World Cup game.