All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes that Ireland are under pressure, and he isn't sure how they will cope.

Speaking to Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB, Hansen noted that Ireland's victory over the All Blacks late last year has launched Joe Schmidt's side to a new status in the world rugby landscape, and warned of the problems that could come along with that standing.

"There's a lot of pressure that comes with [favouritism], and it puts some teams in different places. Ireland, having beaten us, everyone's looking at them, and that's a new experience for them.

"Ireland are in a situation where they're now seen as the team at the top of the tree, and there's a bit of expectation that goes with that. That expectation brings pressure, so now everyone's after them."


If there's anyone who knows all there is to know about pressure, it's Hansen, and he revealed how he, and the All Blacks, had learned from past mistakes and decided to embrace expectations.

"In the past, we've tried to avoid it. But after 2007, we learned that we have to embrace it, it's not going to go away, and you can't pretend it's not there. It's definitely there, and it's in your face.

"I think it's actually one of our advantages, there's an expectation that we not only win every game we play, but we win really really well, and that builds a constant pressure that's there all the time. Once you accept that, it's a lot easier to cope with it, and deal with it.

"You don't always get it right, but you understand it a lot better than you do when you try to hide it under the pillow and pretend it's not there, or if you've never had to deal with it."

So far, Ireland haven't been convincing in dealing with their new status as one of the major Rugby World Cup favourites. A 32-20 defeat to England was followed with a scratchy 22-13 win over Scotland, but Hansen didn't put much stock into the England defeat, arguing that England are a real threat at the Cup later this year.

"England are playing particularly well. They've got a hard edge to them, they've got back everybody who had been out with injury.

"Their set piece is good, their defence is good, [John] Mitchell's got them defending well. It was pleasing to watch – anyone who was complacent, it brings their rear ends from the back of their seat to the front of it because you've now got another team that's saying 'Hey, we're capable of winning the World Cup'.

"We've known for a long time that England are a good side, they won 18 straight. We've known for a while that Ireland are a good side, and Wales are playing well. Last World Cup really hurt the Northern Hemisphere, forced them to look at themselves, and those inconvenient facts are really thrust in your face when you don't have success."

Now, those three sides, as well as the Springboks, loom as the All Blacks' main contenders in one of the more open World Cups. But that only excites Hansen.

"I can't wait - trying to win three in a row, it's never been done before. What an awesome challenge and just imagine if we can do it, how good that will feel."