All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has accused Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika of building a siege mentality around his squad in the latest pre-Bledisloe Cup barb fired between the trans-Tasman rivals.
Hansen says the Wallabies – as self-proclaimed underdogs – “are kidding themselves if they don’t think they’ve got any pressure” on them heading into Saturday night’s Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
The All Blacks’ boss readily acknowledged the heat was on his all-conquering world champions to extend their 11-Test, 12-month winning streak, but said there was no escaping the pressure for the Wallabies either.
“There is pressure on us. There’s pressure on the All Blacks all the time. That’s where we live. Everyone wants to beat us and we want to keep winning,” he said on Thursday.
“So that creates pressure but you’re kidding yourself if you think any Test match that 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 will 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 there is (on) us. So they’re kidding themselves if they don’t think they’ve got any pressure.”
Hansen also dismissed Australian coach Cheika’s claim that the All Blacks didn’t respect the Wallabies, as the war of words between the pair continued two days out from the bitter rivals’ first meeting since New Zealand prevailed 34-17 in the World Cup final at Twickenham.
“To be honest, if anyone looks at our record, we’ve been reasonably successful. You don’t be successful if you don’t respect the opposition,” Hansen said.
“They’re kidding themselves if they think we’re not respecting them.
“If you look at what they’ve been 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 as a very good side, full of world-class players and, at home, they’re hard to beat.
“We’re going to have to front up and play well.”
Cheika laughed off Hansen’s latest jabs, maintaining the Wallabies were obvious underdogs.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a siege (mentality). I think it’s just what they genuinely think,” Cheika said.
“I saw (All Blacks assistant coach) Ian Foster say we struggled in June and we had ‘a bit of a hope’ on that form.
“It’s not a big deal and we understand that.
“They’ve won plenty of times against us in a row so I don’t think that’s any kind of strange thought.
“That’s where it’s at and we’ve got to change it. If we don’t change it, then it will stay the same. It’s pretty simple.”