Steve Hansen: Six Nations sides should think about rugby rather than themselves and sign up for global season
England and New Zealand could enjoy and even greater rivalry had World Rugby's Nations Championship not been scuppered by the northern hemisphere teams, says Kiwi coach Steve Hansen.
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Slated to start in 2022, the concept was to see teams from north and south play each other annually with the top two to contest an end-of-year final. The plans were controversially scrapped back in June though with Six Nations sides in opposition to the proposed promotion/relegation.
A global season, or lack thereof, has long been a problem for the game, with no prospect of establishing one now in sight.
That will likely see games between the likes of New Zealand and England maintain their scarcity - Saturday's World Cup semi-final between the two sides in Yokohama just a second meeting since the end of 2014.
"I think South Africa is always going to be our biggest rival because of all the history that comes with it and because we play each other so regularly," said Hansen, seeking to guide the All Blacks to a third straight title.
"I think we’ve played England once in the last (five) years so it’s hard to build a rivalry when you don’t play each other. If we could get the Six Nations to come on board for a global season, we’d be able to do that.
"Once they do that, then they’re starting to think about the game rather than themselves. There’s a headline for you."
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While many of the England contingent involved at this World Cup were Lions tourists in New Zealand two years ago, there is little doubt that the lack of familiarity is something of a wrinkle when compared to last time around when the Rugby Championship swept the board at the quarter-finals.
"Five years ago we played them four times in one year sand everyone said we played them too much and in the next couple of years they were saying we never played them," said lock Sam Whitelock.
"I don’t think it’s a massive concern because the way the game is now you can get all the different views from all the different games you should know the opposition pretty well, it’s not like you don’t get any information at all.
"But the couple of times I have been lucky enough to play against them they’ve got a great forward pack, and they can play a couple of different styles. They can play very direct, scrum, maul, line out, all those things, but they’ve also got quality players who can change the game with the bounce of a ball or a back strike move.
"The teams that are hardest to play against have a couple of different styles and they can change within a game which style they play. They might play expansive, or they might hide the ball away, so we’ve just got to be ready for whatever they throw at us. And I’m sure they’ll be looking at our game too and trying to see any weaknesses in us, doing the same thing we’re trying to do to them."
New Zealand captain Kieran Read missed training yesterday but Hansen added that he was "100%" confident his captain would be fit to play come the weekend.
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