Drawn Lions series makes England Test bigger for All Blacks - Hansen

By Sports Desk November 08, 2018

Steve Hansen believes New Zealand's clash with England on Saturday is bigger than their drawn series against the British and Irish Lions last year.

The All Blacks were denied victory by a touring Lions side following a dramatic draw in the third Test as Owen Farrell - one of several England players involved - kicked a late penalty.

And Hansen says that disappointment has given the upcoming November international between New Zealand and Eddie Jones' side an added edge.

"I think this is even bigger, actually," said Hansen, comparing the Twickenham match to the 2017 Lions tour. "I think the Lions tour has made it bigger because we weren't successful.

"In only drawing the series, that wasn't successful to us. That's made this week have a sharper edge to it, which is good.

"You've got to be reasonably stupid if you can't work out this is going to be big. There's 80,000 people there, it's all over the papers, everyone's talking about it, you can't get a ticket.

"You'd have to be on holiday, I reckon, if you didn't work out that this is going to be big. And we haven't got anybody on holiday this week."

Hansen is under no illusions about the scale of the task either, adding: "I don't know who's writing them off - it would be foolish to do that. But does it put pressure on us? No.

"There's already pressure on us, the one constant thing about being in the All Blacks is you're under pressure. You're expected to win every Test match you play and not only win it, win it really, really well.

"Once you come to realise that then life becomes a little easier and it does, at times, give you an advantage. When other teams get put under pressure of having to win big games, they haven't experienced that as much as maybe we have."

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  • Rooney ready to enjoy England farewell after pressure of 'Golden Generation' Rooney ready to enjoy England farewell after pressure of 'Golden Generation'

    Wayne Rooney is determined to enjoy his final performance for England on Thursday after admitting it was not always fun to play for his country.

    The former Manchester United and Three Lions captain is due to come on as a second-half substitute when Gareth Southgate's side play the United States at Wembley.

    Rooney scored a record 53 goals in his first 119 international appearances as the spearhead of the so-called 'Golden Generation', which included the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham and was criticised for failing to challenge at World Cups and European Championships.

    Now 33, Rooney concedes that the pressure to succeed for England meant playing for his country was not always enjoyable – something he does not expect to be the case this week.

    "There were maybe times when I didn't enjoy it as much as I should," he said on Tuesday. "That was down to the pressure I put on myself which, obviously when you're in that mode, you don't want to admit is there.

    "I've stepped back from that now and can analyse it, and see it was there. It makes you try too hard, makes you anxious, so you don't enjoy it as much as you should. It affects your performance, because you play your best football and put in your best performances when you're enjoying playing. And I'm going to enjoy Thursday."

    The decision to grant Rooney a farewell match has prompted criticism from some quarters, amid suggestions it is unfair on younger talent looking to establish their place in the side.

    It was also suggested to Rooney that his decision to return was motivated partly by the furore following his last outing, in a 3-0 win over Scotland in November 2016, after which it was claimed he gatecrashed a wedding while drinking. He insisted on Tuesday he "never entered the wedding" and bristled at the suggestion it ended his England career.

    However, he insists he would never have agreed to come back for the USA match if it meant he would break the all-time appearance record held by Peter Shilton, who won 125 caps.

    "I haven't been in the squad since the Scotland game, partly through not playing for Manchester United and the second part through making the decision to retire from international football," Rooney said. 

    "Speaking to the FA, we felt it was right, this was the way the FA wanted to move forward. If this was the game where I was going to take the record off Peter Shilton, for instance, I would never have done that."

    Rooney is uncertain how emotional the occasion will be, having fought back tears when he broke Bobby Charlton's scoring record after netting in a 2-0 win over Switzerland in September 2015.

    "I'm not normally one who shows my emotions that way but when I scored the penalty against Switzerland it was hard to hold my emotions back," he said. "There will be emotions on the inside."

    However, he says he remembers only too well the last time he cried: "It was on the plane, trying to get my four kids to go to sleep!"

  • Watson among four signing new Bath deals Watson among four signing new Bath deals

    England international Anthony Watson is one of four Bath players to sign a new long-term contract with the Premiership club.

    Watson joins Charlie Ewels, Nathan Catt and Elliott Stooke in committing his future to Bath, following in the footsteps of Taulupe Faletau, Semesa Rokoduguni, Zach Mercer and Beno Obano who recently signed new deals.

    Director of rugby Todd Blackadder believes the renewals represent another step towards the team's aim of playing an exciting brand of rugby.

    "We have not shied away from the fact that we want to play smart attacking rugby, while also developing our own unique style of play," he said. "We know we are not there yet.

    "To re-sign such an exciting group of players is testament to their belief in our direction of travel and the environment we have created here at Bath.

    "Anthony Watson, Charlie Ewels, Nathan Catt and Elliott Stooke all have fundamental roles to play in our future and we are delighted to have ensured they are a part of it."

    On Watson, Blackadder added: "Ant is one of those rare players who is incredibly talented yet so hungry to learn and get better every day.

    "His performances for Bath have earned him games at the very highest level with England and the Lions, and he is a role model to our players with his work ethic and commitment to the club."

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