Can hungry England give 'Big Bad Wolf' Hansen a nasty surprise?


When Eddie Jones compared Steve Hansen to the Big Bad Wolf there was nothing fictional about a rivalry which is brewing as hungry England lick their lips at the prospect of swallowing New Zealand up from the record books.

Less than five months after the All Blacks beat Australia to become the first tier-one nation to win 18 consecutive Tests, England matched that feat with a humiliating 61-21 rout of Scotland at Twickenham last weekend.

If the Six Nations champions can defeat Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to claim back-to-back Grand Slams they will break new ground and Jones has warned England have the potential to move to another level.

England have been transformed under Jones in such a short space of time since their 2015 World Cup debacle on home soil, inspired and expertly drilled by the canny Australian.

But the Big Bad Wolf is plotting to blow the Red Rose away - possibly at Twickenham in November if a Test can be agreed - and debates have already started to rage over who would come out on top.

Ireland proved the All Blacks are not invincible by sensationally ending their record run in Chicago four months ago, running in five tries on a famous night at Soldier Field.

Hansen's men responded to that setback by beating the same opponents in Dublin and seeing off France in Paris.

And while Jones states there is plenty more to come from England, the same can be said of an All Blacks side that underwent a seamless transition after retaining the World Cup.

There may have been concerns over whether New Zealand could continue to set the standards after losing inspirational captain Riche McCaw along with fly-half Dan Carter and powerhouse centre Ma'a Nonu.

But the fact Beauden Barrett was named as World Rugby's Player of the Year in 2016 after taking Carter's number 10 shirt says everything about the All Blacks' strength in depth.

Owen Farrell is among the England players who could take that mantle from Barrett this year, yet both Jones and Hansen have conjured up a winning formula which is based around the team rather than individuals.

England may well take the record off New Zealand this weekend, but the biggest test will come when they lock horns with the world champions. 

And before then, Hansen will be hoping he is not in for an unpleasant surprise when his side face a different animal in the form of the British and Irish Lions.

For the time being, England must make sure that Ireland do not successfully play the role of the villain before they can turn their thoughts to taming the Big Bad Wolf.