All Blacks welcome RWC favourites’ label

The All Blacks are embracing the tag of Rugby World Cup favourites on the eve of their opening match against Argentina.


New Zealand’s bid to become the first team to defend their title and the first three-time winners begins against the muscular Pumas at Wembley on Monday morning (NZT).

Once again regarded as the team to beat at the four-yearly tournament, coach Steve Hansen doesn’t want the label to inhibit his team’s attitude or playing style.

“I don’t think we should be afraid of the favouritism tag. It’s something we live with all the time anyway,” he said.

“And we shouldn’t be afraid of all the expectations that come with being the All Blacks because you get that all the time.

“We’re expected to win every Test match, so there’s no more added pressure for us if you look where we live most of the time on the pressure scale.”

The All Blacks have lost just three of 47 Tests under Hansen since his promotion to head coach following the 2011 triumph on home soil.

He is charged with creating history by guiding the All Blacks to a first World Cup win on foreign soil.

Veteran first five-eighth Dan Carter couldn’t explain why his side have fallen short in their five previous offshore campaigns.

“That’s the challenge that we’ve got ahead of us and it is a huge challenge,” he said.

“It’s not just being away from home, it’s the tournament itself in terms of this is the pinnacle of rugby.

“Every other team here are here to win and that makes it really tough and the beauty of this tournament is there are probably a good six, seven, eight teams that could win.”

History suggests New Zealand should retain their record of having never lost a World Cup pool game.

They are unbeaten against Argentina in 21 Tests, although they drew one Test, in Buenos Aires in 1985.

Their only previous Test at the famed Wembley venue came in 1997 when they thrashed Wales 42-7.