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Six Nations needs to 'think about the game rather than themselves' - Hansen

The All Blacks boss was disappointed World Rugby’s proposed Nations Championship was shot down.

THE ANTICIPATION AHEAD of Saturday’s World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and England is understandably high.

The best team in the world against the number-two ranked side -  many people would agree that this would even have been a fitting final.

The rich qualities of both teams should make it an epic contest in Yokohama and this match-up makes one think it’s a shame they haven’t met more often in recent years.

new-zealands-kieran-read New Zealand won in London last November. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

While Ireland have had opportunities to play the Kiwis four times in the last six years, England have faced New Zealand just once since 2014. 

Last November’s clash in the rain at Twickenham saw the Kiwis pip Eddie Jones’ side on a 16-15 scoreline, but the feeling that this fixture should happen more often is shared in both camps.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen took the opportunity to fire a shot at the Six Nations today when asked about the rivalry.

The Kiwi boss hinted at his disappointment around World Rugby’s proposed Nations Championship, which would have likely ensured far more regular meetings with England, being rejected by some of the Six Nations.

“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 in Tokyo.

“I think we’ve played England once in the last six 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.”

The RFU has at least confirmed that the All Blacks will visit Twickenham again in November 2020 and this rivalry will step up a considerable gear on Saturday in Yokohama as they go head-to-head for a place in the World Cup final.

japan-rugby-wcup-new-zealand Hansen [centre] at All Blacks training today. Source: Mark Baker

Hansen believes both the Kiwis and England have progressed a fair degree since last November’s nail-biter in London. Even in answering a query about those changes, Hansen indicated his frustrations with the status quo in Test rugby.

“England had a lot of players injured and were still battling from the long season Lions players had had and were battling injuries left, right and centre,” said Hansen.

“Ever since Argentina were brought into the Rugby Championship, the travel has got insane. Our last nine weeks we go round the world twice, play seven Tests and have about 15 time-zone changes so by the time we get to November we’re struggling.

“We got through that game and ditched the next one. We’ve changed the game a fair bit and England have too.”

Saturday’s meeting is being viewed as a clash of styles in some quarters but Hansen doesn’t agree. 

“I don’t think we’re that different,” said the Kiwi boss. “I think England would say they can tuck the ball up their jerseys and play that game and they’d say they can run it.

“If you look at the pre-season game against Ireland, they certainly moved the ball around that day, they’ve got a good kicking game.

“We think we can match it with most forward packs if we have to. We’ve done it over the years and I don’t think our forward pack gets the credit for that as much as it probably should because it’s overridden by the other stuff that we do as a team.

new-zealands-ardie-savea The All Blacks forwards can match any pack. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“Naturally, we want to run with the ball but we’ve got a pretty good kicking game too. I think both teams are well equipped to play any game they want to play.

“They’ll go to the plan they’ve got and our job will be to try to put doubt in their heads about their plan and the same with them.

“They’ll try to come at us and put doubt in us about our plan.”

Originally published at 11.31

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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