Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Hansen expects response from Wales

Steve Hansen has urged New Zealand to treat Wales with trepidation

New Zealand boss Steve Hansen believes the flak that has flown Wales' way during their dismal autumn Test series will galvanise them for Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash.

Many fans and pundits have turned on last season's World Cup semi-finalists and RBS 6 Nations champions following successive home defeats against Argentina and Samoa. The All Blacks, a team Wales last beat 59 years ago, are next up before Australia conclude an autumn campaign that is lurching towards whitewash territory.

Hansen, who had a 29-Test reign as Wales coach between 2002 and 2004, has not experienced defeat since he succeeded World Cup-winning mastermind Graham Henry last December. "I don't have too much sympathy for them (Wales) - I am in the opposition camp these days!" Hansen said.

"But what it does do is I know it will make them tighter. Invariably, when they get criticised, they get tighter. It will make them more dangerous, I think. You have got to remember there are two teams playing, and the opposition only allow you to do so much.

"The opposition have the right to be able to come at you and do what they want to do. We have got to keep our composure in those moments and wrest back momentum. Obviously, we would like to start really well, but sometimes that is not the way it goes.

"But, as long as we stay connected, keep our composure, keep to our game and things we know we can play, the opportunities will come for us and we have got to take those opportunities.

"I am not taking too much notice of their recent form. They are Grand Slam winners, they are semi-finalists (World Cup), and we know for sure this (New Zealand game) is the one they are chasing. We have to be up for it."

Defeat for Wales on Saturday would make it six in a row against all opponents, signalling their worst results sequence since suffering 10 successive losses when Hansen was in charge. But the 53-year-old dismissed any realistic connection between the runs, adding: "It was a totally different era.

"This (Wales) side has won three Grand Slams and they are a very good side. When I was there, we were trying to rebuild. Self-belief is a big thing in any sport, and this group, although they appear at the moment that they don't have any, have some history that allows them to get back quite quickly.

"I know they will be just mentally getting ready and getting excited about this game. Every team that plays the All Blacks seems to find another gear anyway, so we don't want them finding too many. Our job is to go out and stamp our mark on the game, to do our best to put them under pressure."