By Greg Stutchbury
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan’s surprise victory over Ireland has given All Blacks coach Steve Hansen the perfect chance to remind his side not to be complacent against Canada or they could get a punch on the nose.
The tournament hosts turned the World Cup upside down with their 19-12 win in Shizuoka on Saturday and Hansen is keen the All Blacks do not follow suit in Oita on Wednesday (kickoff 1015 GMT).
“If you disrespect the opponent you’re playing you get a punch on the nose,” Hansen told reporters after he named his side on Monday.
“Canada probably haven’t the strength they have had in the past, but what they are is a very proud team, a very proud nation and they’re led by a very, very good rugby player in Tyler Ardron.
“And they’ll play with a lot of pride.”
Having been through four previous World Cup campaigns, with Wales in 2003 and the All Blacks in 2007, 2011 and 2015, Hansen is well aware that a team must grow into the tournament and peak at the right moments — preferably the last three weeks.
The side had an 11-day break after their first game against South Africa and the coach upped the intensity level at training in the seaside resort city of Beppu before settling into a normal test week preparation.
The idea, he said, was to ensure they are continuing to improve and players are challenging each other to be in the starting side for each game.
Hansen made 11 changes to the starting team that beat the Springboks 23-13, with Jack Goodhue back from a two-month injury layoff, while the entire front row has been changed and Shannon Frizell and Matt Todd come into the loose forwards.
Hansen, however, has stuck kept the dual playmaker tactic with Beauden Barrett at fullback and Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf and will encourage his side to continue to attack when they have the chance.
“We’ve always had a philosophy – play what’s in front of you. If it’s time to push it, we’ll push it. If it’s not on to push it, we’ll do something else,” he said.
The North Americans struggled in a 48-7 loss to Italy in their opener last week in Fukuoka and have lost all five of their previous encounters with the All Blacks, including a 79-15 defeat at the 2011 World Cup.
But Canada coach Kingsley Jones, who has made six changes to his starting side, felt they could still give the All Blacks a competitive match.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for New Zealand,” said Jones. “We can’t wait to fire against them and see how we come out in comparison to some of the best players in the world.
“We’ve got some tries in us so we’re not afraid to have a go but of course we’ve got to play in the right areas.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris)