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'Hunted' Ireland struggling with expectation of being top dogs - Hansen

‘It’s different when you’re sitting at the top of the tree. Not many teams cope with it that well,’ said the Kiwi.

Steve Hansen believes Ireland are feeling the pressure having beaten the All Blacks in November.
Steve Hansen believes Ireland are feeling the pressure having beaten the All Blacks in November.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

ALL BLACKS BOSS Steve Hansen believes “hunted” Ireland are feeling the pressure of being the “top dog” after beating his New Zealand in November.

Heading into this weekend’s fixture with France at Lansdowne Road, Ireland currently sit third in the Guinness Six Nations table and have failed to fire on all cylinders since a crushing opening-round defeat to England last month.

Hansen himself hailed Joe Schmidt’s side as the world’s best after their first-ever home victory over the Kiwis in November, but the two-time World Cup-winning coach reckons Ireland are beginning to feel the weight of expectation ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

“I said it at the time when we played Ireland that whoever won that game was going to be viewed as the number one team in the world and everyone is going to chase them,” Hansen told his native media.

“For us that’s something we’ve been used to. We’ve been ranked the number one team for 112 months now, I think, but people have seen Ireland as the top dog after they beat us, and that put a massive amount of expectation on the players and coaches.

Instead of being the hunters they are the hunted and it’s different. It’s different when you’re sitting at the top of the tree. It’s a different experience. Not many teams cope with it that well.

With the All Blacks not currently in action, Hansen has been keeping his eye on the Six Nations as well as Super Rugby, and maintains that the northern hemisphere sides stand in good stead ahead of World Cup kick-off in September.

“They’re all capable of knocking off a big team,” he said. “There’s been some brutal tests.”

- Originally published at 11.00 

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