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Hansen: Education only way around pill issue

MARC HINTON
Last updated 11:47 24/03/2014

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says education is the answer to making elite rugby players more aware of the pitfalls of mixing prescription sleeping pills with energy drinks.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew last week outed All Blacks Israel Dagg and Cory Jane as having been guilty of the practice at the 2011 World Cup, and there have also been revelations some Kiwis indulged in the cocktail at the Rugby League World Cup last year.

Hansen told LiveSport radio today that the practice had become a significant issue among sportsmen and that it needed to be addressed.

"People's awareness of this problem has grown and we can't hide from it," Hansen said. "We've got to be up front and deal with it, and the best way to deal with it is to educate our players, 'yeah, you do need to have the ability to relax and get off what I call the Ferris wheel of continuous playing', but there's a certain way of doing that that's not going to be harmful.

"In this case the sleeping pills and fizzy drink and alcohol, if you continue doing it, it's going to be harmful. So you sit down and try to educate them that this is not the way to do it. You've got to find other ways to help you get off that Ferris wheel."

Hansen, like Tew last week, denied there had been a 'cover-up' with the All Blacks not releasing any details of the nature of the offending by Dagg and Jane at the time.

He said it was only "as time went on" that the team found out that the players had used sleeping pills and at that point it was believed to be an isolated incident.

"Sleeping pills are not on the Wada banned list, so you've got to think how are we going to deal with this,"

Hansen told LiveSport. "Long term it's not going to be a great thing for the athlete and short term it can also create one or two problems with how they behave.

"That's not the way the All Blacks want to live, so we put in place an educative form of trying to deal with it."

Hansen said it had now become apparent that the practice had become a sporting-wide issue and it was important that all sports, not just rugby, acknowledged it and dealt with it.

"Obviously it has already happened, and how much is it [still] happening? Once we find that out, the players' association, the franchises, the unions, the rugby union itself, and all the coaches and players have to work hard in trying to deal with the issue, and educate our players it's not the way to go."

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Hansen also confirmed he and manager Darren Shand had already started the process of nailing down plans for next year's World Cup, with visits to match venues, training spots and prospective hotels in England earlier this year.

"We'll also look at what type of game we're going to need to be playing at that tournament, and how we can develop that over the next 18 months."

But Hansen said that needed to be balanced by the need to win matches here and now, starting with the upcoming three-test series against a confident England outfit in June.

Hansen said he had no concerns with the injury-enforced absence of skipper Richie McCaw in Super Rugby, and was confident he would be fit enough to be considered to face the English.

- Fairfax Media

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