Hansen wants attacking mindset

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen talks to media at Poneke Rugby Club. Photo: Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks will take an attacking mindset into the Rugby World Cup when it kicks off in four months.

That is an attitude coach Steve Hansen wants to see displayed throughout his side's five tests before the big show in Japan.

They remain World Cup holders for the moment, but not in a literal sense. The William Webb Ellis trophy has gone from New Zealand Rugby's headquarters in Wellington and is now back in World Rugby's hands.

To get it back the All Blacks must win three knockout matches in three weeks in Japan, a task that will stretch them to their limits, but they will be motivated by not only the collective will of New Zealand but also the ability to make history as the only side to win three World Cups in succession.

No other nation has won two in a row.

Asked about his priorities as the North Island All Blacks assembled for a foundation day of light training and study at the Ardmore Marist Rugby Club in south Auckland today, Hansen said: "Getting through the next few weeks and getting the right team selected and then getting really excited about that challenge of going there and trying to re-capture a trophy that we no longer have.

"We're going to try to do something that no one else has done before and win three in a row. The primary goal now is to get the right team selected… and get ourselves prepared for a Rugby Championship.

"We don't own it [World Cup]. It's not in the cabinet – it's gone back to World Rugby, so you can't defend something you don't own. We have to be hungry to try to get it back and re-capture it."

Throughout it all, and in the months before, injuries will disrupt and, to a certain extent, compromise.

Crusaders prop Owen Franks, who didn't travel with the team to South Africa due to a shoulder injury, was included in today's camp, as was Highlanders fullback Ben Smith, who has a hamstring tear but is back running.

Hansen said none of his injured players were too far away from a return, with Blues midfielder Sonny Bill Williams running after knee surgery and a possibility to return in a couple of weeks. Hansen sounded relaxed too about the minor shoulder problem which ruled his skipper Kieran Read out of the Crusaders match against the Stormers in Cape Town.

Another unknown is the influence referees will have on the All Blacks in Japan and it was here that Hansen was happy to weigh in on what many observers have seen as some eccentric officiating in Super Rugby recently.

He has watched with interest as New Zealand's five sides have been continually punished by referees – especially the competition-leading Crusaders – and the inconsistency of the officials is his main concern.

"It's hard not to [notice]," he said. "The Crusaders have definitely got a high penalty count [against them] and not just in one game – in a lot of games – and they're well aware of that. Having said that, if you look at the Lions game and the Highlanders, I think a lot of the penalties are right but they're not consistent on both sides."

The Lions have been big beneficiaries. In three games at home against overseas teams with South African referees in charge, the Lions have conceded only six penalties while winning at least 43. Hansen believed it was 48.

"I think there have been 48 penalties in three games [awarded to] the Lions and only six against the Lions," he said. "That would say there's not a lot of consistency. I don't know any team that's only given away six penalties in three games."

Scrums are an area where the Crusaders have copped it from referees and that too will concern Hansen as the officials appear to be getting too easily conned by teams not wanting to engage.

"I think sometimes it's interesting; some sides don't want to engage, they're scrummaging for penalties and it's very tough for the referee who's actually not engaging and who is pushing over the mark. I think from the naked eye it's easier to see that I've pushed over the mark rather than you not engaging."

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