Tricky situation for expecting father Dane Coles

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2014
EXPECTING FATHER: All Blacks hooker Dane Coles admits he was nervous informing management he needed leave during a crucial stage of the Rugby Championship.
Richard Parker
EXPECTING FATHER: All Blacks hooker Dane Coles admits he was nervous informing management he needed leave during a crucial stage of the Rugby Championship.

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Hooker Dane Coles nervously told All Blacks Management he needed leave at a crucial time in play.

This was one ruckus Dane Coles wanted to avoid.

Although chuffed partner Sarah was pregnant with their first child, Coles couldn't help worrying about how All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would react to his hooker swapping scrums for a birthing unit at such a crucial point of the Rugby Championship.

From a rugby perspective Coles concedes the timing is hardly ideal; the baby is due in the first week of October, coinciding with the blockbuster test against the Springboks in Johannesburg and at a time when the All Blacks are short of experienced hookers.

Yet there is only one place he wants to be on October 5 and it isn't on a rugby field surrounded by 62,000 screaming South African rugby fans at Ellis Park.

''I was a bit scared, to be honest, about how they would react,'' Coles said when asked how he broke the news to the All Blacks management.

''I told Shandy (manager Darren Shand) and he talked to the coaches and they all said 'that is fine'.''

Forwards coach Mike Cron even offered an innovative solution; by tapping into his computer he joked Coles could remain with the squad and offer support to his partner from a distance.

''I think Cronno said 'hasn't he heard of Skype?' so there was a little laugh there,'' Coles added.

''But they have been really good. I think most of them are fathers and know how important it is to be there.''

The plan is for Coles to play Argentina at La Plata on September 27 and then fly back to New Zealand, leaving Keven Mealamu and Bay of Plenty's Nathan Harris to prepare for the test in Jo'burg.

This leaves Hansen to fondle the worry beads as he urges Mealamu not to put his troublesome calves under too much stress.

If Mealamu keels over the inexperienced Harris will be pitched into the Ellis Park furnace against Bismarck du Plessis and another player, possibly Otago's Liam Coltman, will need to be recruited from New Zealand.

This scenario once again highlights the need for Hansen to build depth at hooker because Mealamu, 35, is no certainty for next year's World Cup and Andrew Hore (retired from professional sport) and Corey Flynn (signed with French club Toulouse) are unavailable.

Last month Conrad Smith withdrew from the Wallabies test in Sydney, returning to Wellington to support his wife who was expecting their first child.

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The disruption caused by going on baby-watch during a World Cup campaign was not lost on Coles.

''If I have another one, there will be a bit of planning,'' he conceded.

Engaging the respected Argentinean scrum at Napier's McLean Park on Saturday night seems to be a much less complicated affair.

''They gave the Africans a bit of a touch-up. They will scrum from anywhere and keep the ball in from like our 22m or their 22m just to milk that penalty.

''Even their loosies are pushing like front rowers. We have just to change our mindset that it is going to take an eight to really take them up front.''

- Stuff

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