Speaking on Radio Sport in New Zealand, All Black head coach Steve Hansen has made a couple of strikingly frank admissions ahead of 2017.
As reported by the NZ Herald, Hansen believes England are more than likely to break the All Black record of 18 consecutive wins, a Tier One record.
Such world records have like been the preserve of the All Blacks but it’s hard to argue with Hansen looking at the statistics.
England have won their last 14 tests, and so need to avoid defeat in the first four Tests of next year’s Six Nations to tie the record. To do so they would need to topple France at home and Wales away. Neither would be entirely straight-forward, but England will be favourites for both games. Should they also account for Italy and Scotland, the record breaking game could come against Ireland at the Aviva, surely the toughest of all the fixtures. Hansen however, believes England are up to the task.
“Of course they can, they’ve got the mental fortitude to continue to get up every week and play well,” he said of Eddie Jones’ men in white.
“They’ve got games against Italy and you’d expect them to beat Italy and I’d expect them to beat Scotland so they’ve then got the Irish game, the French game and the Welsh game.
“They’ll be toughies, but we know they’re capable of beating them. They went through last year undefeated so it’s there for them to have a crack at.”
Hansen also had some interesting thoughts on the future of three All Blacks in particularly whose contracts expire next year. Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith have all been linked extensively with European Powerhouses, but Hansen seemed optimistic that at least two would remain in New Zealand.
“It’s going to be touch and go I think,” he said. “We’re trying really hard to keep them.
“Will we keep all three of them? Probably not. But if we can keep two out of the three that’ll be a positive, if we can keep all three that’ll be extraordinarily positive.
“You’re never going to retain everybody because we just don’t have the same amount of money as the English and the French do, and that’s just a reality we have to come to terms with.”
While all three contracts expire in 2017, the trio will assuredly be around for the 2017 Lions Tour. The Autumn International results have only added spice to the prospect of that tour, and it will only be richer for the presence of the players the ilk of Dagg, Cruden and Smith.