Rugby

'People Saw Ireland As Top Dog After They Beat Us, That Put Massive Expectation On Them'

'People Saw Ireland As Top Dog After They Beat Us, That Put Massive Expectation On Them'

Steve Hansen believes that the tag of "top dog" may be weighing heavily on the shoulders of Ireland's players and coaches as they stutter through the Six Nations.

"I said it at the time when we played Ireland [in November] 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," the All Blacks head coach told the New Zealand Herald.

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.

"They're all capable of knocking off a big team," Hansen said of the Six Nations teams.

"We've seen that with Ireland. They were favourites going into the tournament and they've been beaten by England. Then all of a sudden England were favourites to win the tournament, now they've been beaten.

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"France should've beaten Wales in the first game so it's a pretty even contest all round. You've got to turn up and play well if you want to be in it.

"It's different to the Super competition; it's different to Sanzaar test matches but it's still really good rugby. There's been some brutal tests. All of the Home Nations, plus France, and there's been some improvement in Italy too."

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

See Also: The Ireland Team We Want To See Start Against France

PJ Browne
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