Steve Hansen welcomes England's tough talk

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
Stuart Lancaster
Getty
BIG TASK AHEAD: England coach Stuart Lancaster.

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Steve Hansen hasn't ducked an early warning shot by England coach Stuart Lancaster.

Rather than needle Hansen by declaring England will arrive here with "all guns blazing" for the three-test series in June, Lancaster appears to have caused the All Blacks' coach minimal discomfort.

In fact Hansen almost welcomed Lancaster's statement, stating he had good reason to be bullish after England's recent performances in the Six Nations and promoted fullback Mike Brown as one of the world's best players.

"You would expect anyone who is coming over to come all guns blazing," Hansen said. "I thought they were very, very good. There is a different feel to England and there has been for quite some time, they have been quite impressive.

"I think their fullback is one of their best, if not the best fullback in the world at the moment."

Brown, 29, won three man-of-the-match awards during the Six Nations and has something to prove in New Zealand after his last tour in 2008 resulted in him being reprimanded following his nocturnal activities.

England missed securing the Six Nations title on a points differential after Ireland beat France in Paris but their performances, especially those of Brown, warranted Hansen's admiration.

Lancaster's first assignment against the All Blacks, in London in late 2012, resulted in England bowling the New Zealanders 38-21. Last year they were competitive until a late surge gave the All Blacks a 30-22 victory.

England last won in New Zealand in 2003. Hansen will have noted England, whose only loss in the Six Nations was to France, established the best attacking record in the tournament under Lancaster.

"He's [Lancaster] definitely changed the culture," Hansen noted. "He's started to talk about the England shirt and playing for England, rather than individuals. There's a lot more humbleness about what the English than what you would probably get normally.

"They are trying to play a game that involves everybody and they are very physical."

England teams usually struggle to compete Down Under but a motivated Lancaster has reiterated to his players their season isn't over until the final test in Hamilton on June 21.

However, he will be without some men for the first test because they will have played the English club final a week earlier.

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Hansen was philosophical about the yo-yo form displayed by the New Zealand Super Rugby teams. Apart from the Chiefs, unbeaten in their first three matches, the Crusaders, Blues, Hurricanes and Highlanders have been inconsistent.

The late arrival of the All Blacks following their summer break often means Kiwi teams are slow starters.

"If you look at the Aussie sides they have had a lot of time for preparation, whereas New Zealand sides certainly haven't had a lot of time with their top players.

"It's early doors and we are pretty happy with what we are seeing at the moment."

Hansen has also kept in contact with Richie McCaw after the All Blacks skipper had a screw inserted into his thumb, having fractured it playing against the Blues on February 28.

"There's no drama about the break. He's just waiting for it to heal. He's pretty frustrated and I can understand why because he's pretty keen to get into his Super Rugby this year. That can happen to anybody, whether they have played one game or 100 games."


- The Press

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