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All Blacks do not fear anybody, insists Hansen

 

Firm belief: Steve Hansen is backing his side to go all the way
Firm belief: Steve Hansen is backing his side to go all the way

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

New Zealand's Steve Hansen has sent out a warning to Ireland ahead of the first game of his side's World Cup defence against South Africa today.

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The result of that game could put the All Blacks on a collision course with Joe Schmidt's side in the quarter-final, with the winner of Pool A taking on the second-placed team from Pool B and vice versa.

Barring a big shock, the world champions and the Springboks will get out of their pool, with Ireland, Scotland and Japan battling to emerge from Pool A.

So, it could be argued that the clash of the weekend between the southern hemisphere giants is relatively unimportant given they'd both back themselves to beat one of those teams in the last eight. Coach Hansen has named a strong side for the opener against South Africa.

And he is backing his team to beat all-comers in the quarter-final.

"This is all we can control," he said. "I guess you're talking about who we play in the quarter-final. We don't know what will happen in the other pool.

"I think you can get too smart if you start thinking about things like that. You've just got to live where you are at the time and make sure you do it well. If we get to the quarter-final then it's about making sure we turn up that day right regardless of who we're playing.

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"The one thing I do know is that if we play to the best of our ability then it doesn't matter who we play; they're going to have to play really well to beat us. And if they do so, then well done to them and we have to accept that. But if they don't then they may have to accept the consequences."

Hansen is confident his team have what it takes to win the tournament. But he believes that the field has never been stronger.

"They're always competitive. It makes me chuckle when I people say 'Oh, this team can't win or this team cannot win.' Right now you've got a number of sides who are capable of winning it because they've got the talent in their group."

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