New Zealand coach Steve Hansen appealed Friday for a fair deal from referees as he embarks on a campaign to produce the first side to win successive Rugby World Cups.
“All we want is for them to be consistent,” Hansen said after naming a full strength squad for the All Blacks’ first match against Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
No team has won back-to-back World Cup and the All Blacks, winners in 1987 and 2011, have never won it away from home.
But Hansen said if the referees are fair to all sides, and the All Blacks are not enveloped by the over-confidence that has ruined previous missions, then there is no reason why it cannot happen this time.
“Someone’s going to have to do it first and we’re the only ones in this tournament that have got an opportunity,” he said.
“Although I want to emphasise that we learned in ’07 if you look too far ahead you get on a plane and go home so we’ll just worry about Argentina this week, Namibia next game and so forth. It’s an old cliche but it’s one we hang on to.”
Under Hansen’s reign, the All Blacks have only suffered defeat three times in 47 Tests.
The record includes notable come-from-behind wins against Ireland in Dublin in 2013 and Australia in Brisbane last year which Hansen said showed “we have the mental strength to get the job done.
“This team has got a lot of talent and it’s got a lot of self belief. Now, it just needs to have the hunger and desire and work ethic and use the luck we get.”
The All Blacks are in probably the lightest pool of the tournament. Their first opponents Argentina are their likely the toughest with second tier sides Namibia, Georgia and Tonga to follow.
While Hansen would rather his side had a tougher work out before the knock out stages he rejected suggestions that would count against their campaign to win successive crowns.
“We’ll get our share of luck and our share of bad luck. How we use that luck and how we deal with the bad luck will determine how far we go into this tournament,” he said.
“The game is extremely difficult to ref … they’re going to miss some things and we’ve just got to deal with that. And they’ll make mistakes just like I do as a coach and our players do as players and in the game we have just have to deal with it.
“But if they can be consistent, if that’s offside today then that’s offside for the whole game as an example, and if they do that then no one’s got any complaints.”