Steve Hansen impressed by competition in the Six Nations

“Northern hemisphere rugby at the moment is humming along pretty nicely, and it is going to be a good challenge.”

Those are the words of All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen as he reflected on the weekend’s Test action in Europe. An Ireland win and an England loss handed the Six Nations title to the Irish a week before the two sides meet in the final round, at Twickenham.

Related: Talking points from round four of the Six Nations

Asked if he was shocked by France’s win over England, Hansen told the press: “Not really. I think any team is capable, up there, of beating each other.

Steve Hansen impressed by competition in the Six Nations

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“France are a side that we as well know that can turn-up or turn-off. If they turn-up they are extremely difficult to play – big, athletic and skilful. And they have a number of people out, so they are only going to get better.”

Hansen and his All Blacks will have paid particular attention to France, who they play in a three-Test series in June. New Zealand will also travel to Europe in November, facing England, Ireland and Italy on their tour – with those first two ties being where many hope the “challenge” Hansen mentioned will arise.

Related: How France defeated England

He did not sound stunned by England’s losses to two of their rival, and the Kiwi coach was keen to reiterate the level of competition in the North. On Ireland, Hansen said: “They have always been tough. For quite some time, they have been strong. People tend to forget that.

“Again, Scotland; everyone said ‘look at our performance’, rather than saying Scotland have actually improved.

Steve Hansen impressed by competition in the Six Nations

Glory days: Ireland efficiently saw off Scotland in Dublin

“There is a lot of improvement in northern hemisphere rugby at the moment.

“I think last year we saw in Scotland, they have made big improvements; beaten Australia twice, played really well against us and come out and beaten England.”

Hansen was talking during an All Blacks’ ‘foundation’ day on New Zealand’s south island. This is part of the All Blacks’ activity in preparation for the international season later in the year.