Steve Hansen insisted the All Blacks were embracing the pressure of trying to win a third straight Rugby World Cup.
New Zealand made history by becoming the first nation to win the tournament back-to-back when they clinched the title in England in 2015.
Aiming for a hat-trick in Japan, Hansen said it was something the All Blacks – who begin their campaign against South Africa on Saturday – were excited about.
“It’s extremely exciting. Trying to do things that no one else has ever done before is a hallmark of what New Zealand people are about,” he told a news conference.
“We came away from the home shores and settled in a country at the bottom of the Earth. We had to find ways to live in isolation. You know, life wasn’t like it is today so they’ve become pioneers and I think that’s really important in anything.
“In life, particularly in sport, you’ve got to strive to be leaders rather than followers and we get an opportunity that no one else at the tournament gets.
“We can either shy away from that or get really excited by it and we’re excited by it.”
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 14, 2019
The All Blacks will go into the tournament as favourites and are in Pool B alongside South Africa, Italy, Namibia and Canada.
Captain Kieran Read accepted there was pressure on his team, but he said they were welcoming it.
“Obviously there’s pressure but I guess it’s how you look at that pressure,” he said.
“You know, whether that’s something to overcome you or you walk towards that and you actually enjoy that so we wouldn’t be sitting here as a part of this tournament if we didn’t relish these opportunities to play at that highest level.
“And the World Cup is the highest level. It’s what you want to do when you pick up this game and play for your country so look, we walk towards that expectation and we really relish it so that’s what we’re hoping to do this tournament.”
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