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Steve Hansen wants New Zealand to embrace favourites tag


Steve Hansen insists New Zealand should not be scared of their tag as World Cup favourites

Steve Hansen insists New Zealand should not be scared of their tag as World Cup favourites

Steve Hansen insists New Zealand should not be scared of their tag as World Cup favourites

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen wants his All Blacks to embrace the pressure that faces them as they set out to retain their World Cup crown.

The 2011 champions will kick off the defence of their title against Argentina at Wembley on Sunday.

Hansen knows the rugby public will be looking for an upset, especially after Argentina's surprise Rugby Championship win over South Africa last month.

But the Kiwi boss believes his men should happily accept the burden of expectation that comes with being the best team in the world.

He said: "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 we get that all the time anyway.

"We're expected to win every Test match, so there's no more added pressure for us if you look at where we live on the pressure scale.

"There's just a genuine excitement about trying to do something that every team that comes to the World Cup wants to do. Win it."

The All Blacks' triumph four years ago was the nation's first World Cup success and came on home soil.

Despite their huge armoury of talent, New Zealand previously struggled to make their usual dominance count when it came to tournament action, especially in Europe.

But star fly-half Dan Carter insists his team are ready to repeat their 2011 triumph on foreign shores.

He said: "It's a huge challenge and if we had that answer [for their previous troubles] we wouldn't be sitting here as an All Blacks side who have never won a World Cup away from home.

"That's the challenge ahead of us. It's the pinnacle of rugby and every team that is here will be playing the best they possibly can.

"That's the beauty of this tournament. There's a good six, seven, eight teams that could win this. That's the challenge we are working towards.

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"We love the fact that the All Blacks have never won this away from home. That's what excites this team and that's what we're working hard to do."

First, the All Blacks will have to fight past an Argentina side still buoyant after their Springboks victory.

The Pumas' line-out coach Pablo Bouza said: "It's going to be very nice to play in the World Cup at Wembley, the first match of our World Cup and playing the best team in the world for the last four years.

"We now play in the Rugby Championship and that benefits our players. Since the last World Cup, tomorrow will be the ninth time we have played against the All Blacks. We are now used to playing them while once before we played the All Blacks every 10 years. So we are more used to it.

"We know that we played to a high level against the Springboks but the first two matches of the Rugby Championship against New Zealand and Australia we didn't play well. So we know it's going to be tough against the best team in the world."

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