Crusaders: 'Thinking about the people of Christchurch'
You could hardly see the smoke spiraling off the Port Hills from their training base but Jason Ryan said it wasn't a case of the fires being out of sight, out of mind for the Crusaders.
Assistant coach Ryan knows as much as anyone in the team about what it was like to lie in bed and wonder what was going to happen next as the nearest flames scorched the Christchurch Adventure Park, Wolseley Spur and Victoria Park on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Ryan lives in the nearby suburb of Cashmere, and although he didn't get as far as packing the family car with precious items in case a quick getaway was required he said it was difficult to ignore what was happening in the western reaches of the city.
"I was sort of sleeping with one eye open," Ryan said. "Even though the fire was a wee way away, you could see the glow in the sky. But it has been frightening for a lot of friends and families I know in the area, who were evacuated last night."
The Crusaders had their final training run at Malvern Park in St Albans on Thursday and have booked a charter flight to Wanganui on Friday morning. They will then travel to Waverley for their final trial game against the Hurricanes in the evening and later fly back to Christchurch.
The management and squad had addressed the subject of the fires prior to training, and the impact it would have on their supporters.
"We have talked about it, it's not a nice time," Ryan added. "I guess it is a chance to say we have been thinking about the people of Christchurch over the last three days. It has been a frightening and awful time for a lot of families."
Meanwhile, 11 All Blacks, apart from injured No 8 Kieran Read, are expected to get around 40 minutes each against the Hurricanes in their first run of the season.
Openside flanker Matt Todd said the side hadn't forgotten the spectacular cropper they suffered at the hands of the Hurricanes in their final preseason game last year, when they lost 74-7 in Blenheim.
"You don't want to finish your pre-season on a note like that, it certainly makes for a stressful first week heading into the competition proper," Todd said.
"You want to build momentum. When you lose by 80 or whatever it was … You certainly question a little bit about what your are doing. We are well prepared and the boys are excited."