Australia a dangerous beast, warns Hansen

New Zealand may enjoy a dominant recent record against Australia but Steve Hansen says the Wallabies are "a dangerous beast" ahead of their Rugby Championship opener this weekend.

The All Blacks have only lost one of their previous 15 matches with their neighbours - drawing two - and have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002.

Hansen's side completed a clean sweep against Australia last year as they romped to the Rugby Championship title, racking up 108 points across the three Tests.

Sydney hosts the first match of the 2017 competition and despite New Zealand being strong favourites, Hansen knows they cannot afford to be complacent.

"They've got a lot of talent and they've had a great preparation," he told a media conference.

"While [Super Rugby] franchise fans weren't probably overexcited about the fact that they got knocked out early and would rather have seen them play right through to the final and have less preparation time, those two things make them a dangerous beast.

"The third thing that makes them really dangerous is their desire to try to help Australian rugby and at the moment it has a bit of a cloud over it and they haven't won the Bledisloe in a long time.

"They're pretty hungry for it so, as a team, we have to be hungrier than them, otherwise we're at a disadvantage.

"But I think the rivalry is good. There is a lot of support from New Zealand towards Australian rugby. We need them to be strong and we need that rivalry to be strong."

Nonetheless, New Zealand's 15-year stranglehold over the Bledisloe Cup is something Hansen is keen to preserve.

"Bledisloe is something we hold dearly in New Zealand rugby and someone's going to lose it and you don't want to be that person," he added.

"But you don't want to be burdened by that either. That's an important thing.

"It's the biggest trophy we play for outside of the World Cup and it means a lot to the group - it's part of who are we, and our legacy is about honouring, respecting and enhancing the jersey.

"We've held this trophy for a while, and no one wants to be part of giving it up."

Hansen's XV for Saturday's opener was surprisingly missing Israel Dagg, but the coach revealed he was protecting the full-back ahead of a tough international campaign.

"He is not injured, he could have played if we had really wanted him to," said Hansen. 

"But there's a long-term race and a short-term race and we have to consider that and we feel another week would be good for his body and mentally."

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