Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen hits back at Rassie Erasmus over 'mind games'

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen isn't impressed with his South African counterpart's comments about the standard of international rugby refereeing.

Former Springbok Rassie Erasmus has played mind games in the build-up to their tournament opener on Saturday night in Yokohama City.

Erasmus said he was convinced match officials favour successful teams, like New Zealand and expected 50-50 decisions to go against his side this weekend.

Hansen isn't buying it, accusing Erasmus of stirring the pot by putting the spotlight on officials.

"It's pretty obvious what they are trying to do," Hansen said on Thursday. "Whilst I have a lot of respect for South Africa and Rassie, I don't agree with what he's doing. 

"He's trying to put pressure on the referees externally and they are under enough pressure already. They don't need coaches to be doing what he's doing.

"Yes, they don't get it right all the time and we've suffered from that, but it's just like other teams.

"It's a big game and we just need to let the referee get on with it."

Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen hits back at Rassie Erasmus over  'mind games'
Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen hits back at Rassie Erasmus over  'mind games'

On Tuesday, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said he believed the referees for this World Cup were better resourced and trained than officials at any previous tournament.

"This is the best-prepared group of match officials we've ever had," he said. "Everything's in place for as much consistency as possible."

Meanwhile, Hansen has deflected the perception that his world-champion side are vulnerable, heading into their title defence.

Ireland have arrived in Japan as the world's No.1 ranked team, after beating the All Blacks twice in their last three tests. 

Losses in recent years to South Africa and the Wallabies have the rest of the world's press lining up to take shots at New Zealand's strength, but Hansen says that kind of talk is all too familiar.

"It's the same noise we heard last time," Hansen told an Irish journalist on Thursday. 

"Prior to 2015, the narrative was that Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were too old - it's just the norm.

"You get people that definitely don't want us to win, because it's not in their interest for us to win.

"Once we get the tournament underway, we will get rid of all the peripheral noise that is out there - meaningless noise from people expressing their opinions, when they have no idea of what is actually happening inside some of these teams."

Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach.
Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach. Photo credit: Getty

The All Blacks have a nine-day break after the South African test, then head to Oita to play Canada. 

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The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

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