In the name of my father
It has been a tough week for Steve Hansen but it hasn't dampened the fire in his belly.
Despite the death of his father, Des, this week, Hansen never contemplated not joining the All Blacks yesterday as they travelled to Brisbane for tomorrow night's test against the Wallabies.
And the All Blacks coach quickly swatted away any doubts about whether his personal turmoil would blunt his appetite to land another upper cut on the Australians at Suncorp Stadium.
"They are doing a lot of talking about what they are going to do and what they are not going to do - which I find interesting," Hansen said.
"We respect them immensely . . . We know they have had hardships, quite a few injuries, but they have got probably the biggest forward pack they have ever put on the park. So we know it will be physical and we know they will be in the game for long periods of it."
Hansen is as motivated as ever to keep the Aussies winless against the New Zealanders this season and record their 17th consecutive win since their last defeat - a 25-20 upset against the Wallabies in Brisbane last year.
Skipping the Brisbane test to mourn his father would have made no sense on several levels, he emphasised.
Given the love his father had for rugby, Hansen said the decision he made to go to Australia was non-negotiable.
"You would be lying if you did not say it wasn't a really tough week but we are a tight family. I know that Dad would kick my arse if I didn't do the job right.
"I was always going to go to Brisbane. It was never, ever in doubt. He would roll over and shoot me if I didn't go."
The funeral will be held in Christchurch on Tuesday.
If the All Blacks can maintain the elite standards set in their recent triumphs over the Springboks and Argentina in Soweto and La Plata, the Wallabies are in danger of playing the role of a hapless cane toad in the path of a Panzer tank. Yesterday it was the case of another day, another injury when Wallabies coach Robbie Deans watched prop Ben Alexander withdraw with a wrist problem.
He has been replaced by James Slipper and Sekope Kepu, who is returning from injury, has been listed on the bench.
Having made just two changes from the side that clouted the Springboks 32-16 on October 7, Keven Mealamu, who will play his 100th test, and Charlie Faumuina join the front row, Hansen has reinforced he means business and emphasised he was not tempted to make more changes.
He also noted the calming influence Mealamu, who roomed with Faumuina in Christchurch this week, was having on the inexperienced tighthead prop.
"This guy [Mealamu] has been around a long time and Charlie's a young man who needs a fatherly figure from time to time and he's been there."
Hansen also added that as Mealamu's nerves tighten before he joins Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina in the All Blacks' 100-test club he believed his Blues team-mate would assist in easing the tension.
"I'm sure that while Keven is going through some of the emotional stuff Charlie has been laidback and is making him [more] relaxed."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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