All Blacks to get the formula right during the World Cup
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The All Blacks will draw directly from the peaks-and-troughs blueprint of 2015 when they set out to claim the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time.
Coach Steve Hansen was at his descriptive best on the eve of the team’s departure for the Rugby World Cup, where they open their defence against the Springboks in a September 21 blockbuster in Yokohama.
A horse racing enthusiast, Hansen compared his job of preparing first for South Africa and then the knockout phase to the challenge of a master horse trainer.
“You can have a horse at its first start and it doesn’t have to be in its greatest form, it just needs to be in really good form,” he told journalists.
“But when you really want to peak, you’re right at the very best, there’s nothing left, you can’t tinker any more.
“That’s the art of the coach and the strength and conditioning coach working together on the training park and getting the formula right.”
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 7, 2019
He reminded journalists on Sunday that New Zealand’s toughest pool game four years ago was also first up.
They saw off Argentina before dispatching three lesser lights in unimpressive style, using that period to prepare specifically for the knockout phase.
Hansen’s men then hit top gear, ending with victory over Australia in the Twickenham final.
Hansen said winning the last two tournaments provided invaluable lessons in how to cope with pressure.
The intensity reached its climax eight years ago on home soil after falling short at the five previous tournaments.
“It’s about handling the expectation,” he said.
“In ’11 we just handled it, just. In ’15 we dealt with it pretty good, it helped because of ’11. Go back over time and we definitely didn’t handle it.”
Hansen was pleased to report no further injuries from the 92-7 dismantling of Tonga in Hamilton on Saturday.
Backs Richie Mo’unga, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams and Jack Goodhue didn’t play because of “niggles”, along with flank Sam Cane. All are likely to be available to face the Springboks.
One player definitely missing will be lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder), who Hansen is gambling on being fit by the quarterfinals.
The 14-try romp in Hamilton has created a batch of fresh selection headaches, particularly in the backline.
Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett were assured in their customary positions of fullback and flyhalf respectively, throwing uncertainty over the new “twin pivot” alignment of Mo’unga at No.10 and Barrett in a roaming role at the back.
The midfield combination of Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty was classy enough to potentially shut out both Goodhue and Williams.
“The 31 people that are going, we’ve got massive belief in each and every one of them,” Hansen said.
“So whatever drawer we go to in the cupboard, it’ll be because that’s what we think we need against that particular team or at that particular time in the tournament.”