New Zealand v Australia: How cool coach Hansen has made the All Blacks unbeatable

All for one and one for all - Steve Hansen with his All Blacks
All for one and one for all - Steve Hansen with his All Blacks
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Ralph Ellis has been backing New Zealand to win the World Cup for the last 10 months and says he sees no reason to change his mind now...

"The Wallabies are the only team to have beaten New Zealand this year, but the revenge at Eden Park was with five tries for a 41-13 thrashing. New Zealand are [3.25] in the margin of victory market to win Saturday’s World Cup Final by more than 12.5 points, and that's my bet."

New Zealand had just thrashed France by 49 points when somebody asked their head coach Steve Hansen if he had anything else up his sleeve.

It seemed a fair question. The All Blacks had gone through the group stage in first gear, using the pool matches to experiment, before suddenly opening up on full throttle to rip the French to pieces.

Hansen thought for a moment, looked calmly at his inquisitor before letting just the faintest smile appear. "Just my arm," he said.

If there was a moment that summed up the way the 56-year-old has handled one of world sport's most high profile jobs across the four years since he took over, that might have been it. Calm, pragmatic, thoughtful, and just a bit of fun in the right places.

On the one hand (and here we go with that sleeve again), managing the All Blacks ought to be just about the easiest coaching task. You've got all the best players, and at this moment a side that's also bristling with big game experience. They share a world record number of caps, after all.

But as countless other coaches across every sport have proved, having a side full of world class players with big egos can be a poisoned chalice. If you don't get them all working in harmony, the discord is loud and haunting.

When Hansen stepped up from his role as Graham Henry's assistant for the team that won the 2011 World Cup, it wasn't so easy. You are already on the top of Everest. The only road from there is downwards.

His answer was instead to reach for the sky, and his genius has been to get the players to buy into the same idea. Just three defeats (and two draws) in 53 matches since then tells you how well he has done.

Now I know I've been a bit of a bore about the All Blacks and the World Cup. I started backing them at [2.74] to win the trophy last December just after the Autumn internationals and I don't see anything to make me change my mind now - even if my colleague Simon Mail makes a solid case for backing the Wallabies.

I'm not even tempted to Cash Out, even with the odds in the outright winner market down to [1.41], the sort of level I felt it should have been all along. Much of that is down to Hansen's ability to get his team to function at their best when it matters most.

The Wallabies will point to how they are the only team to have beaten New Zealand this year, scoring a 27-19 win in Sydney in August. A week later the revenge at Eden Park was with five tries for a 41-13 thrashing. New Zealand are [3.25] in the margin of victory market to win Saturday's World Cup Final by more than 12.5 points, and that's my bet.

There's a theory that you need to taste failure as a coach to learn how to create success, and it's interesting to look back on a 2013 interview with Hansen where he says his failure in charge of Wales more than a decade ago - when he went through a complete Six Nations series losing every game - was pivotal in his career.

"The biggest thing I learned in Wales was you have to get the culture right, everybody putting the team first rather than themselves," is how he put it.

With New Zealand he's done that. They understand who they are and what they are aiming to achieve, and that winning - be it by throwing the ball around for expansive tries against France or doing it ugly in the rain against South Africa - is all that counts.

Once you've got that, what else do you need up your sleeve? Apart from your arm?

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