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All Blacks reckon clash with England bigger than Lions series

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All Blacks reckon clash with England bigger than Lions series
Rugby Union - New Zealand Training - The Lensbury, Teddington, Britain - November 8, 2018 New Zealand's head coach Steve Hansen during training Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra   -   Copyright  PETER CZIBORRA(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) – The world champion All Blacks reckon Saturday’s clash against England at Twickenham is even bigger than their tussle with the British and Irish Lions some 18 months ago, adding more spice to a long-awaited meeting.

The first test in four years between New Zealand and the English has been given top billing by Kiwi coach Steve Hansen, who said on Thursday: “The Lions tour has made it bigger because we weren’t successful in only drawing the series.”

In the tests they played against the Lions in 2017, the All Blacks won the first, lost the second and drew the third.

“To us, that wasn’t successful. That’s given this week a sharper edge, which is good,” Hansen told a news conference.

“Everyone understands how big this is. There’s been a real buzz from the moment we got to name the northern hemisphere tour squad … There’s going to be 80,000 people, it’s all over the papers, everyone’s talking about it and you can’t get a ticket.”

Hansen was speaking after earlier on Thursday naming a near full-strength squad for the first clash against the English since a 24-21 win in London in November 2014.

England have beaten the All Blacks just once in 15 meetings, a 38-12 win at Twickenham in December 2012, and many pundits are predicting another loss for an injury-hampered home side against the team heavily tipped to retain their World Cup crown in Japan next year.

Hansen said it would be foolish to write England off.

“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 because 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.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; editing by John Stonestreet)

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