More England matches would have knock-on effect, says All Blacks coach Hansen

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen fears playing regular Test matches against England would diminish the spectacle and have a negative impact on players.

The All Blacks face England for the first time in four years this weekend at a sold-out Twickenham

Hansen has further raised expectations for the highly-anticipated clash by declaring it bigger than last year’s British and Irish Lions tour.

While the 59-year-old would be open to the idea of more regular meetings between the two countries, he has concerns about the knock-on effect.

“As long as it doesn’t create more logjams in the calendar,” replied Hansen, when asked if he would like to face England more often.

“The problem with the game at the moment is there is not enough break between the last game and the next one, and players are suffering because of it.

“The old adage of less is more is probably a good thing.

“Would we be so excited about playing England if we were playing twice a year, every year? Maybe not.

“But we haven’t played them in four years and everyone is on the edge of their seat, can’t wait, can’t buy a ticket. So that’s got to be good for the business.”

New Zealand’s last major match at Twickenham resulted in them lifting the World Cup trophy with victory over Australia in 2015.

The All Blacks’ most recent meeting with England came the previous year, when they secured a narrow 24-21 win.

Saturday’s Hillary Shield match will be the first time Hansen has taken on an England team coached by Eddie Jones.

Hansen feels the opposition have improved significantly since Australian Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster as head coach in November 2015.

“They won 18 Tests in a row coming out of a World Cup that was deemed to be a disaster. You couldn’t describe it any other way,” said Hansen.

“I think Stu did a lot of work to set some platforms and then Eddie came in and really took it to another level.

“Winning 18 games in a row is not easy – only two teams in the history of world rugby have ever done it. So you’d have to say they have improved, but coming with that is pressure. How do we keep doing it? Do we get comfortable?”

New Zealand have named their strongest available team, including a centre pairing of Jack Goodhu, who has recovered from glandular fever, and Sonny Bill Williams.

Prop Joe Moody suffered a cut eye in training, so Karl Tu’inukuafe takes his place in the front row of a side captained by number eight Kieran Read and directed by Beauden Barrett at fly-half.

- Press Association


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