Australia are favourites for this weekend’s Rugby Championship opener with New Zealand despite the All Blacks being defending champions, says Steve Hansen.
New Zealand have been the dominant force in the competition, winning five of the six editions since the addition of Argentina in 2012 and finishing last season’s tournament with a perfect 6-0 record.
They have won 15 consecutive Bledisloe Cups against Australia, but their last meeting with the Wallabies ended in defeat in Brisbane and that makes Saturday’s hosts favourites according to New Zealand’s head coach.
Speaking at a media conference, Hansen said: “They won the last one, they have to be [favourites] don’t they?
“They’ve improved from [last year] haven’t they and they’ve had a [warm-up] game. Every year we have a bit of a game for the guys that don’t make it through too far in the finals and I think that’s all the difference was.
“Once we got that sorted out it was a titanic struggle for the other two games. I think it’s going to be a great contest and two really good games.”
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Australia’s 23-18 win in October was a rare success for the Wallabies, though, with New Zealand enjoying an impressive record against their trans-Tasman rivals.
The world champions have won 26 of their last 33 meetings but Hansen insists the rivalry between the two nations will not lose its intensity.
“It’s Australia v New Zealand, it doesn’t matter what sport you play, it’s a healthy rivalry between the two countries,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of stuff together over the years, we’ve fought in wars alongside each other, we’ve looked after each other in many different ways.
“There’s a closeness there and whenever there’s a closeness it becomes semi-family-like and little brother always likes to beat big brother and big brother doesn’t like losing to little brother. That keeps the competition alive.
“Players, particularly, get to understand the history of it as well and they take pride in that.”
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