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Selectors excited by Cup challenge

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Sportal.co.nz     30 May 2007     allblacks.com

With the public anticipation mounting before the event, and aware of the fall-out that has occurred in the most recent World Cup campaigns in 1999 and 2003 when New Zealand exited at the semi-finals stage, the coaches admitted to individual excitement about the challenge ahead of the side.

Wayne Smith, who was coach in 2000-01 before he was replaced, said he had been preparing for this campaign 'for a couple of years'.

"I want to make sure I am energized and having done my best," he said.

There was some anxiety in the media, and the public, about the Cup, especially after South Africa's clear improvement, but he said he was 'excited and enthusiastic' and he wanted to make sure that was contagious.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen said he too was excited but from his perspective it needed to be remembered that you have got to start the race before you can finish it.

He said there was some anxiety in the public based on the South African performance in the Rebel Sport Super 14 but he felt people had forgotten about what the All Blacks had achieved in recent years.

"We done nothing since last year, but the boys are showing good signs.

"We need to play some games and enjoy them for what they are," he said.

The World Cup was always in the back of the mind though, for the coaches as well as the players.

Coach Graham Henry said he wasn't concerned by the Super 14 results as a pointer and added that New Zealand teams won it in 1999 and 2003 and that hadn't helped them win the Cup.

But he warned again that there needed to be a realisation in New Zealand that there were other countries that could play the game.

"They are all trying to peak for the World Cup and they see us, rightly or wrongly, as the benchmark," he said.

However, he added that if the All Blacks didn't improve on what they achieved last year then they wouldn't win the World Cup.

"Other teams will pass us and beat us," he said.

Henry said Australia would be loving the position it was in at the moment while South Africa had made some rapid advances.

"We have to make sure we focus on the now and improve over the next seven Tests," Henry said.

He finished by saying he was more excited about the challenge of this year's World Cup than anything else he had experienced in coaching.