All Blacks coach Steve Hansen again talking perfect sense ahead of Bledisloe clash
There's still plenty of time to talk about the rugby part of Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup clash between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney.
For now, though, the most interesting aspect remains All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and his dismantling of Wallabies opposite Michael Cheika.
Hansen is having a field day here as reporters confront him with grievances from Cheika, which he dismisses in wicked fashion.
Thursday was meant to be about the teams both coaches had picked and what that might herald on the weekend. Instead it revolved around Hansen and his fair and honest answers.
The narrative out of the Wallaby camp has been that Hansen is going to have trouble keeping all of his talented squad happy and that the All Blacks are a team under pressure. Cheika even went as far to suggest that New Zealand don't rate or respect Australia. Sit back and enjoy what Hansen had to say about all that.
"If anyone looks at our record - and we've been reasonably successful - like you don't be successful if you don't respect the opposition. So I think they're kidding themselves if they think we're not respecting them," Hansen said.
"If you look at what they're saying, I think they're building their own siege mentality and that's fine. If that's what they've got to do, that's what they've got to do.
"But we certainly respect them. They're a good side and they're full of world class players and at home they're hard to beat and we're going to have to front up and play well."
As for the pressure being on New Zealand, well, that's not a news flash to Hansen. But nor would he swap places with Cheika and the Wallabies.
"There is pressure on us. There's pressure on the All Blacks all the time. That's where we live," said Hansen.
"Everyone wants to beat us and we want to keep winning so that creates pressure. But you're kidding yourself if you think that in any test match there's not pressure on both sides.
"If you look at what's happened to them recently, I think they've lost their last four games. That'll create pressure. They haven't won the Bledisloe for the last 13 years. That'll create pressure. So there's as much pressure on them as us, so they're kidding themselves if they don't think they've got any pressure."
Hansen's conscious that the Olympics are on and rugby's not in the spotlight and that any banter between him and Cheika won't harm ticket sales. But he also wants people to remember he's not the instigator here and that's he's merely responding to questions.
Those queries on Thursday even included one about what message he was trying to send to Australia.
"I don't have one for them. I don't coach them, I don't have any messages for them," Hansen said.
"It's not for me to give them a message about that. It's for me to give my team a message about how we prepare and get ready to play and that's what we've concentrated on."
Part of that is selection. George Moala's knee injury meant picking Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa was a formality, while Hansen said hooker Dane Coles was only with the team to receive treatment for his rib injury.
"He was never going to play."
At first five-eighth Beauden Barrett was always the prime candidate to start, having primarily been a bench player until now.
"He's just got to be on the park for 80 minutes, so I had a pretty easy selection there," Hansen said.
- Dominion Post