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Steve Hansen takes cheeky shot at All Blacks' rivals vying for RWC title, saying the pressure's on them

Steve Hansen has laid down the challenge to the All Blacks' rivals heading to the World Cup, questioning whether some of the top nations are ready to handle the weight of expectation on their shoulders.

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New Zealand’s coach, who’s been involved in back-to-back World Cup victories, says "it’ll be interesting to see who can cope". Source: 1 NEWS

All Blacks coach Hansen and selectors announced the 31-man squad heading to Japan to defend the Webb Ellis Cup next month at Eden Park today.

Hansen then addressed media about the selections, but used his opening address to highlight the history his squad is looking to achieve.

"We're in a position to put our time, effort and thinking into what's going to be an awesome challenge and something that's never been done before - winning three World Cups in a row," Hansen said.

"We know it's going to be hard, we know it's going to be tough and we know we're going to have to earn the right to do it but in saying that, anything that's worth doing has to have those components."

Hansen said that challenge will lead to a scrutiny, expectation and pressure but he and the squad are looking forward to tackling all those feelings "head on".

He then cheekily questioned whether other top countries will be able to do the same.

"We're fortunate enough to live in an environment with the All Blacks where that expectation is with us all the time," he said.

"Not only are we expected to win Test matches every time we play, but by big margins and we believe that'll give us an advantage.

"This World Cup looks like it's going to be the most fiercely-contested tournament yet with a number of teams turning up in Japan thinking they're going to win it.

"That's going to create some expectations on them too and with it, pressure. It'll be interesting to see who can cope with it and who can't because the tournament will demand that they do."

Hansen said that condition is where the All Blacks will have an advantage.

"Some of these teams, it's going to be the first time that they're going to turn up and have to feel that pressure and it can be overwhelming when you haven't had it before."