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Hansen: Expectation is high

The New Zealand public would refuse to countenance a first-ever defeat to Ireland, according to Steve Hansen.

But the All Blacks would not have it any other way, believes the Kiwis' head coach.

Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks, despite 27 attempts, and Hansen admitted his side can ill afford for that to change in Dublin on Sunday.

New Zealand are chasing completing a perfect season of 14 wins with victory this weekend, to become the first professional-era side to achieve the feat.

Hansen pledged his side will take those dual pressures in their stride at the Aviva Stadium.

He said: "You have got to understand that there is an amazing amount of pressure on this team all the time.

"The expectation is that not only do they win but they play really well all the time - that's just from the fans.

"But we wouldn't have it any other way as their expectations force us to go higher with ours because we are the people in the team, so that is just something to add to the pot.

"You have to embrace pressure or it will overcome you and control you and we don't want to be controlled by pressure.

"Legacy is everything to the All Blacks.

"The reason the expectation is so high from the fans is the legacy, the history of this team is such that people expect them to win and the jersey hasn't changed much."

Hansen has made seven changes to the side that eased past England 30-22 at Twickenham last weekend.

Hooker Andrew Hore will win his 83rd and potentially final cap on Sunday, with the 35-year-old expected to retire at the end of the season.

New Zealand have rested blindside flanker Liam Messam, Hansen handing an opportunity to 22-year-old Auckland Blues loose forward Steven Luatua.

Ireland ran New Zealand mighty close in Christchurch in June, losing out 22-19 in the second Test of a three-match series.

Just a week later the All Blacks dispatched Ireland 60-0, shattering the perceived progress from the previous encounter.

Hansen is refusing to take Joe Schmidt's men lightly this weekend though - and has warned his players to stay focused.

Hansen said: "They have a huge passion, they showed in Christchurch when they really get up to play they have a physicality and skill set that can cause anyone trouble so we respect them highly.

"In reflection completing the sweep would mean a lot but at the moment it cannot afford to be the focus.

"We haven't been that satisfied with either the French or the English games and how we played, so the whole focus this week has just been on preparing really well.

"We have talked about the dangers of losing focus - we saw last year what happens when you do that.

"We have been on heaps and heaps of tours a few of us and you start thinking about getting home and all that and then you are not preparing genuinely."


From Belfast Telegraph