Talk of New Zealand posting a century or more against minnows Namibia in a World Cup clash is way off the mark, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who believes the days of high-scoring records are over.
Namibia’s claim to World Cup fame is being the victims of the biggest losing margin when beaten by Australia 142-0 in 2003, while the All Blacks hold the record for the highest score in the tournament’s history when they whipped Japan 145-17 in 1995.
Hansen has taken the liberty of resting most of his first-choice players for Thursday’s Pool C match between the top and bottom ranked sides at London’s Olympic Stadium, but said New Zealand were not taking it easy.
“We can’t assume Namibia are going to lie down because they won’t,” Hansen said on Wednesday. “They’ll be proud men and they’ll come out and give it everything they’ve got and they’ll ask questions of us for sure.”
There have been six century scores in the game’s global showpiece, now into its eighth tournament, but Hansen suspects such totals are a thing of the past given the growing strength in depth of international rugby union.
“The game’s changed a heck of a lot since ’95,” he said. “World Rugby’s spent a lot of time and energy and money trying to help the so-called minnows of the game to improve and I think by and large they’ve been successful in doing that,” he said.
“It’s taken a long time but it’s happening, so things like that I don’t think are as up for grabs like they used to be.
“If someone’s going out thinking he’s going to get records, I’d say he’s in the wrong mental state in today’s game.”
Hansen singled out inspirational Namibia captain Jacques Burger, the Saracens flanker, as a world-class player who can make a difference to a game.
“He’s a pretty special player. The last tournament he was in the top five, so to be able to do that in a team that wasn’t always going forward, as a loose forward you’ve got to be pretty good.
“He’s totally committed. If you’re in his part of the park and you’re carrying the ball, you better get ready to get smashed, so you’ve got to admire that in him.”