Panic outside the camp, calm within.

If there is any hint of nerves, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen sure isn't letting on.

In the prolonged build-up to the All Blacks' gripping Rugby World Cup opener against the Springboks in Yokohama this weekend Hansen has heard the rumblings about his side's vulnerabilities.

They are, many believe, not the team they were four years ago.

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Hansen notes the external tension around his frequent selection changes, the inexperienced wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece being handed starting roles against the Boks, and the many definitive predictions about who will win this World Cup in Japan.

And he simply has a chuckle. He's been here before.

"It's the same noise we heard last time," Hansen said today after naming his team to face the Boks. "Prior to 2015 Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were too old.

"You get those that don't want us to win because it's not in their interests, and there's the other group that really desperately want us to win and they're all nervous because we haven't played any games.

"As soon as we get this tournament underway we'll get rid of all that peripheral noise that's pretty meaningless.

"People are making opinions who have no idea what's actually happening in some of these teams.

"It's not something that they're doing maliciously but it happens every World Cup. It happens for us, to be quite honest, every time we pick an All Black team."'

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen during their press conference at the team's hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Rugby World Cup. 19 September, 2019. NZ Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen during their press conference at the team's hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Rugby World Cup. 19 September, 2019. NZ Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell

Hansen knows the stakes are high. He's well aware no team has won the World Cup after losing a pool match and, yet, he doesn't seem the least bit fazed by the challenge.

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Rather than being daunted by the prospect of defeat, Hansen seems inspired by the draw which pits the All Blacks against the Boks first up. That attitude is reflected by his players, too.

When someone emits such calmness at the top of the tree, it can't help but filter through.

"If I could pick who is going to win this tournament like half the people I've read about I'd be a millionaire. I wouldn't be sitting here I'd be off to the TAB. I'd give the job up so I could have a punt.

"It's just not that easy. You can't sit here and say 'this team is going to make it, and they won't make it'. There's no grounds for that. All you can say is there are teams that are capable of winning it.

"There may only be one winner this weekend, or we may draw again, but if people can see this team is in a state where it can perform really well then that'll give them a bit of confidence.

"If we lost the game by a massive margin then, well, there will be hysteria and probably rightly so.

"To be able to play an opponent as good as we're playing, you couldn't ask for anything more. Whilst it probably doesn't look like I'm excited on my face I am.

"This is what you get involved at this level for. These are the moments you live for. It tests your resolve – everybody in the group is tested. What more do you want?"

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