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'They're favourites to win': All Blacks, England heap World Cup pressure on Wales after new world ranking

The All Blacks say Wales are welcome to the No.1 world ranking, relaxed to shed themselves of the long-held status heading into a Rugby World Cup defence that is gathering serious momentum.

Coach Steve Hansen was bemused that New Zealand should lose the top spot they’ve held for a decade in the immediate wake of a 36-0 crushing of Australia.

However, he won’t be losing any sleep over it, reminding Welsh counterpart Warren Gatland that the spotlight will now shine a little brighter on the Six Nations champions when they arrive in Japan.

“We just need to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to go over and win the World Cup, so I’m not too worried about that.”

Gatland, himself a New Zealander who will take on the head coach role at the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Super Rugby next year, wasn’t too concerned with his side’s newfound status following their 13-6 victory over England in Cardiff on the weekend.

“It’s just a number, isn’t it,” he said.

“It is a nice accolade to have, but it is all about the next few months and backing that up by performing well in the World Cup, and we’ve a couple of games against Ireland to go as well.

“It’s nice for a day, but we won’t be shouting from the rooftops about it. We have got to keep things in perspective.

“Lots of journalists will be out there saying ‘this is a joke’ — probably Kiwi journalists more than anything! It’s just a number.”

England head coach Eddie Jones mounted the pressure on his side’s opposition from the weekend, saying they are now in pole position to win their maiden World Cup next month.

“They’re favourites for the World Cup now. When you go to No 1, you’re favourites for the World Cup,” he said.

After three patchy outings in 2019, the All Blacks rediscovered their mojo at Eden Park.

Rivals hoping the three-time world champions were back-pedalling won’t have enjoyed the sight of a Kiwi pack defying critics in compelling style while new wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge injected energy on the end of a slick backline.

“It’s massive really because everyone externally was starting to get a bit shaky and starting to question whether the coaches still had it, the players still had it,” Hansen said.

“Where we had question marks, we no longer have question marks.”

Hansen’s only gripe was the yellow card shown to hooker Dane Coles for a dangerous judo flip on Wallabies halfback Nic White.

It came a week after Scott Barrett was sent off for his shoulder charge in the heavy loss at Perth and represents a concerning trend, as the outcome big World Cup matches could swing on ill-discipline.

“How disappointed? Very. We’ll deal with that behind closed doors and move on,” Hansen said.

“It’s a constant work-on for Colesy and it’s a good reminder for him.

“You’re going to get moments when he does something you’d classify as dumb.”

New Zealand’s World Cup squad is named on August 28 and they’ll play Tonga in Hamilton on September 7, two weeks out from their mouth-watering tournament opener against South Africa.

 – With AAP

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'They're favourites to win': All Blacks, England heap World Cup pressure on Wales after new world ranking