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'Success dulls hunger': What makes the ABs 'dangerous' ahead of RWC

By Finn Morton
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

While the All Blacks are always under some degree of pressure and scrutiny, they “aren’t the number one dog in the house” anymore – and that makes them “dangerous” ahead of next year’s World Cup.

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After dominating international rugby for the better part of a decade, the All Blacks’ fall from grace reached a worrying new low in August.

For the first time in their history, New Zealand dropped to their worst ever ranking of fifth on World Rugby’s men’s rankings.

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But this team is always expected to win, and to their credit they’ve changed their game throughout a difficult 2022 season.

If failure really is the best teacher, then the All Blacks’ historic losses against Ireland and Argentina can fuel the men in black leading into what will be the biggest and most competitive Rugby World Cup ever.

Legendary head coach Steve Hansen believes the All Blacks will want to “prove to everybody” that they can win the World Cup after a difficult year.

“The big difference with this World Cup is the All Blacks aren’t the number one dog in the house at the moment. It will take the pressure off them,” Hansen told the DailyMail.

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“Not being number one creates hunger, and being hungry at a World Cup is good. Success dulls hunger.

“In 2007, we feared whether we had the hunger to win. After such a poor result, everyone was so hungry to be successful we won the next two.

“Going into this one, we’re not the current champions. We’ve had some adversity in the last 12 months, which is tough to take but also helps to build a team that wants to prove to everybody they can still do it.

“New Zealand are going to be dangerous – more so than some people think.”

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New Zealand’s hard-fought win against Japan a few weeks ago was far from clinical, and had Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph questioning the aura of the once feared All Blacks.

While they appeared to turn a corner the following week against Wales in Cardiff, a new-look starting side struggled to make some noise against Scotland.

But reminiscent of the champion teams of 2011 and 2015, the bench executed their job to perfection and brought some much-needed impact into the final quarter.

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The All Blacks’ toughest challenge, and potentially their most important of the Autumn Nations Series, is waiting for them at Twickenham this weekend.

Less than a year out from the World Cup, the All Blacks’ will want to keep their winning streak alive against Eddie Jones’ England.

While England fell short of World Cup glory three-years-ago in Japan, Hansen said that they’re “certainly” good enough to go one step further in France.

“They certainly are,” Hansen said. “They were just about good enough to win it last time.

“England is a nation that has a lot of talent and (they) can put it together on any given day. If they do that, they’re going to be hard to beat.”

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