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Understated All Blacks head to England for World Cup

Since taking over as head coach in 2012, Hansen’s team have played 47 tests, winning 42, and lost just once to each of Australia, South Africa and England, while drawing twice against the Wallabies.

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In 2013, they also had the first unbeaten season since the game went professional in 1995.

While not garnering as successful a record as the current side, previous teams have travelled to northern hemisphere tournaments with an underlying expectation from their rugby-mad compatriots that they just need to turn up to win the World Cup.

Such expectations resulted in some serious missteps both on and off the field.

In 1999, they travelled in a plane with the fuselage sporting an imposing graphic of their front row.

In 2007, they continually rotated the team and selected an unfit player for the quarter-final against France to see if he would be match fit for the semi-final.

Others selected for that match in Cardiff played out of position and France won the game 20-18.

‘NOT OURS TO DEFEND’

“In 2007, I think we rocked up a little arrogant, like previous All Blacks teams over the years may have,” Hansen told reporters in Auckland as they prepared to depart for Britain.

“(We were) too comfortable, having come off being the number one team for a long time and just expected it to happen.

“Rugby, or any sport, will tell you that if you rock up to a contest involving another person and expect it to happen then the other guy or athletes will have something to say about that.”

Thursday’s parting message, undoubtedly to also address the focus that will settle on his side from the British and international media when they arrive in London, was consistent with what Hansen had espoused when he named the team.

“There is not an expectation that we should win it by right,” Hansen said then. “We’re not going to defend the World Cup because it’s not ours to defend. Its already gone back.”

Since the team’s selection, the majority of the past 10 days have involved fulfilling commercial obligations and making public appearances.

The squad, however, did have a two-hour contested session on Tuesday that replicated match conditions as they prepared for their opening Pool C game against Argentina on Sept. 20.

“We’ve got to make sure we are battle-hardened over at the World Cup and we’re ready to play,” assistant coach Ian Foster told reporters in Auckland after the session that many described as ‘physical’.

“The last thing we want to do is put ourselves in cotton wool and worry about things (like injuries).”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)

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