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Having gone from hunter to the “hunted” after a brilliant 2018 season, Ireland are struggling to deal with the pressure of being the “top dog” of world rugby during their Six Nations campaign, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said.

Six Nations Grand Slam winners last year, Ireland’s title defence got off to a poor start with a 32-20 thrashing by England at home and they have yet to hit top gear in wins over Scotland and Italy.

The players have vented their frustrations, with fly-half Johnny Sexton tearing a strip off his team mates during the unconvincing win over Italy.

Hansen, whose world champion team suffered a stunning 16-9 loss to Ireland in November, their first ever defeat in Dublin, said great expectations around Joe Schmidt’s side were taking a toll as the Rugby World Cup approached.

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