RWC 2015: New Zealand stay humble and admit to Argentina concerns

They face an awkward test against the Pumas in round one

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The Independent Online

New Zealand may or may not become the first side to stage a successful defence of a world title, but this much is already certain: they are playing the humility card as though their lives depend on it.

Last week, eight years late, they finally pleaded guilty to a charge of arrogance in respect of the 2007 tournament in France, where they lost in the quarter-finals. Yesterday, they confessed to being just a little worried about their first opponents here in England.

“It’s not ideal,” said Steve Hansen, the coach, when pressed on a draw that threw up a side as awkward as Argentina in round one. “The Pumas will be really dangerous. They have already beaten South Africa this year and beaten them well, yet this is the first time they’ve named their best side because during the Rugby Championship [the premier southern hemisphere Test competition] guys were off injured or working in a pre-season environment. I think they’ve handled their preparations well.”

 

 

 

Hansen did not attempt to downplay the challenge of achieving his heart’s desire over the next six weeks. “The statement answers the question: no country has retained the title, so it must be hard to do,” he commented.

“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen – someone has to do it first and we’re the only ones here with the opportunity. But we learnt in 2007 that if you look too far ahead, you get on a plane and go home.”

Tomorrow’s silver-ferned line-up will be just about the most experienced in the annals of international rugby: all the rock-star brigade will be on show at Wembley, from Ma’a Nonu and Dan Carter in midfield to Richie McCaw and Kieran Read in the back row.

Argentina, meanwhile, have recalled seven players who missed the home defeat by the Springboks last time out and, of those, the loose-head prop Marcos Ayerza and the centre Juan Martin Hernandez have the capacity to make a very big difference indeed.

 

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