All Blacks feel for Steve Hansen but soldier on
A sombre mood has sheathed the All Blacks after head coach Steve Hansen was absent from much of yesterday's camp in Christchurch to be at the bedside of his seriously ill elderly father.
Both assistant All Blacks coach Ian Foster and senior player Conrad Smith said the team was saddened by the news as they prepare to play the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday - probably without Hansen.
"He is still heavily involved with the planning but he is spending a lot of time with his family," Foster said.
"That's the key thing for him right now."
Foster was unsure whether Hansen would join the team in Australia, but it was looking increasingly doubtful.
The All Blacks leave their Christchurch camp for Brisbane on Thursday and recent history suggests Hansen will not make the the trip (he took a temporary leave of absence from the All Blacks during their 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign in France when his mother died).
Hansen and his father, Des - one of the lesser known, but key influences on his rugby career - are close.
Des was a relatively well- known figure in club rugby circles in Christchurch during a purple patch coaching the Marist club in the 1980s, notably introducing defence patterns still in vogue today.
In recent years, as his health deteriorated, his eldest son became one of his primary caregivers, far from the public spotlight of his day job.
Foster said the All Blacks had decided not to use the situation as motivation for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies, maintaining a stiff upper lip on the subject.
And should Hansen choose to remain in New Zealand, Foster and the All Blacks' experienced senior leadership group will take charge; a scenario Foster was unfazed about.
"We are all feeling for him but the team just carries on as normal and we are trucking along without him. The beauty of this team is we have good routines to prepare and we know if we have prepared well leading up to Friday we have a good chance of playing well on Saturday."
The All Blacks have an indifferent record in Brisbane.
Foster said the team was cognisant of that fact, and that the Wallabies, ravaged by injuries, had nothing to lose and would therefore pose a threat to the All Blacks' winning streak.
"We have won the Bledisloe already so you could say there is reason not to do well," he said.
"But for us there is a lot of pride in the way we play and we want to put it all out there."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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