All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, a man building a substantial fan base in Japan on a level with some of his players, says his side’s aim of winning three World Cups in a row is merely a reflection of New Zealand’s pioneering spirit.
After a week of preparation in Kashiwa, the All Blacks enjoyed a traditional World Cup welcome at the Zojo-ji temple in Tokyo yesterday, and Hansen, who has impressed the crowds that are following his team by occasionally speaking in Japanese, explained his team’s mindset to reporters.
New Zealand is the first nation to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups. Another in the head coach’s final months with the team would be obviously be extremely difficult to emulate.
“Trying to do things that have never been done before is a hallmark of what New Zealand people are about,” Hansen said.
“We came away from the home shores and settled in a country at the bottom of the earth. We have to find ways to live in isolation when life wasn’t like it is today.
“They become pioneers. What’s important in life, and particularly in sport, is that you’ve got to strive to be leaders rather than followers.
“We have an opportunity that no one else at the tournament gets; we can shy away from it or get really excited about it. We are really excited about it.”
Continue reading below…
The arrival of the All Blacks in Tokyo signals the start of test week, at the end of which await the Springboks in Yokohama, and a ramp up in intensity. That includes the added scrutiny by the thousands of locals who have attached themselves to the All Blacks – a report suggested 7000 attended an open training yesterday – and the scrutiny the players and management will put on themselves.
For that reason, a week acclimatising in the more laidback environment of Kishawa was invaluable, Hansen said.
“We’ve really enjoyed it from a coaching point of view,” he told New Zealand reporters. “I know the coaches have because there’s no pressure of a game on the weekend. We’ve been able to do some stuff that we really needed to do but haven’t had the time to do because you’re always time poor when there are test matches to be played and I think we’ll get the benefits.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now