Hansen takes holiday break in Golden Bay

WAYNE MARTIN
Last updated 13:00 23/01/2013

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At the moment he's enjoying just being plain old Shag.

All Blacks coach Steve "Shag" Hansen is holidaying with his family in Little Kaiteriteri and relishing some precious down time away from the pressures of international rugby.

He's been in Golden Bay for the past two weeks "doing all the usual stuff that you do up here" which, in Hansen's case, has included plenty of boating and a spot of salmon fishing.

Tomorrow he's a guest at the Turf Hotel Sports Bar in Stoke when the public are invited to meet New Zealand Rugby's 2012 Coach of the Year between 6pm and 7.30pm before he heads back home to Christchurch on Friday.

"It's a good break and you just get the opportunity to forget about rugby and concentrate on your family, because they're the people that miss out when you're doing what you're doing," he said. "So this time of year's all about [partner] Tash [Natasha] and the kids.

"People are pretty good and they understand that you're on holiday with your family and leave you alone."

While rugby's not necessarily dominating his thoughts at present, he admitted that he still hadn't gotten over the All Blacks' shock 38-21 loss to England at Twickenham last December.

"I don't think you get over any loss, but the reality is, we had a pretty outstanding season [12 wins, a draw and a loss] and you reflect upon that and you look at that loss for what it was and then you look forward to rectifying a few of the things that that loss exposed, I suppose," he said.

A long and demanding 14-match international programme, coupled with a virus that hit the team in the days leading into the Twickenham test, ultimately took their toll. Still, he wasn't offering excuses.

"We knew that we were struggling a bit. The big season and the virus certainly didn't help, but England on the day played pretty well and we just didn't have the energy levels to cope with it."

The loss also raised some key issues regarding team performance and player welfare.

"We need to adapt our game as well. There were things in our game by the end of the year that were reasonably readable, but you can't introduce everything at once. So we'll go away and we'll look at that and look at ways of making ourselves a little bit less readable.

"I think the biggest flag, and I've been waving this one for a long time, is about player welfare. You've got to have athletes that have got energy and it doesn't take much to swing the pendulum around and most of these [international] teams aren't that far apart.

"So if you don't give them the chance to re-energise and play the game they can play, then you're in trouble. So we've got to look at how we look after our athletes here in New Zealand and the [New Zealand] Rugby Union's doing the best they can."

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The All Blacks don't begin their 2013 international campaign until June when they play a three-test home series against their World Cup final opponents France. But with New Zealand's five franchises each beginning their respective Super campaigns in about four weeks' time, Hansen said the All Blacks' management and coaching team would be reconvening in mid-February.

"First of all we'll get our management team together and we'll reflect on last year and toss ideas around. Then we'll get the coaching group together and have a bit of a chat about how we think we can play the game and then we'll watch a bit of Super rugby and see if that makes sense."

Hansen said that France would provide a demanding start to the new season.

"They'll be very tough opposition, but it'll give us a good build in to the [Investec Rugby] championship and give us a good idea about playing without [captain] Richie [McCaw], so there's a lot of positives there and we've got to look forward to it and embrace it.

"We've just got to make sure that we're well prepared well before we even name the team and then once we come together after naming the team, that our preparation's really good."

As for McCaw, who is on sabbatical leave, Hansen said it certainly wasn't a given that one of New Zealand's most valued players would be fronting for the next Rugby World Cup.

"I don't know what the answer is, whether we'll have him or not, but the bottom line is, if we're going to have any chance of having him, he needed to have this sabbatical. So I'm all for it and by all accounts he's enjoying it, so that's great."

- The Nelson Mail

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