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'My kids aren't going to love me less' - Emotional All Blacks front up to defeat

The All Blacks were still hurting badly this morning after their defeat to England.

AN EMOTIONAL MORNING at the All Blacks’ team hotel.

It would have been easy for Steve Hansen and co. to simply keep their heads down, letting the pain of last night’s defeat to England in the World Cup semi-finals sink in for a couple of days before facing the media.

Instead, Hansen and his key leaders – captain Kieran Read, lock Sam Whitelock, and playmaker Beauden Barrett – fronted up to a media briefing and showed how much they were hurting.

“I rang my wife,” said Hansen as he fought back the tears. “We had a bit of a chat. Talked to Ted [former All Blacks coach Graham Henry] and to Conrad [Smith] and had a chat about ’07 [the quarter-final loss to France]. We mentioned the fact that it’s no different.

japan-rugby-wcup-new-zealand-england Steve Hansen was hurting this morning. Source: Christophe Ena

“It was a gutting feeling. Then Ted and I spoke about how well George Ford had played. Ted had quite a few comments. I did a bit of listening and tried to do some learning. Then you just move on, don’t you?”

Hansen said he had watched the game back first thing this morning, picking out Maro Itoje for particular praise having studied the 19-7 defeat more closely.

Cruelly, the All Blacks have to hang around for another week in Japan as they play the Bronze Final in Tokyo on Friday night. 

It is perhaps the worst fixture in rugby, but the All Blacks will have to find a way to get through it.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read will play his final Test if he’s involved in that fixture, with his tenure as skipper having essentially come to an end yesterday on his 34th birthday.

Like Hansen, he was visibly upset this morning.

“The amount of positive messages that have come through, that helps,” said Read. “Also the fact it was my birthday yesterday… I get back to the hotel room and there are cards from my kids waiting for me. It changes things and puts things in perspective.

“It’s a rugby game and people care. We care. So you enjoy moments and, for me, I’m a dad, and that’s first and foremost the thing I want to be remembered by.

“I haven’t seen my kids yet. But that’s the thing, it’s all relative. My kids aren’t going to love me less.

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“So it’s a tough pill to swallow because of the effort you put in and the guys beside me have put in. It’s connections you have with your mates that makes it tough.

“But your family and the ones close to you go through that ride as well. They hurt and struggle. It’s a chance again, we’ve got one more crack at it on Friday. We’ll make the most of that.”

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Kieran Read after the All Blacks' defeat in Yokohama. Source: David Davies

The talk back home in New Zealand will be about what comes next for the All Blacks with Hansen stepping down after next weekend and Read joining him in moving to Japanese club rugby.

But the Kiwis will lick their wounds in Tokyo and attempt to end this campaign by sending them off in winning fashion.

“There’s lots of emotion flying around at the moment, everyone is pretty much on edge,” said Whitelock. “But that’s something we’re going to have to address.

“We can use that as a positive, put a positive spin on it. Rather than let it be overwhelming or a burden.

“They’d love to go out playing really well or coaching really well. So I’m sure the whole team is trying to go out and have the best week we’ve had at this tournament so far.”

Hansen is certain that the All Blacks will bounce back next season and into the future.

Though he will be watching on as a supporter, the 60-year-old believes the Kiwis can use the pain of last night to get better.

“For the young guys and the old guys, there has not been much adversity,” said Hansen. “For 12 years we have been reasonably successful, game after game. We have lost 10 games out of 104 or 105, which is pretty amazing itself. But what it does do is take away the guys who have had the pain.

“It’s important that we bottle that pain. These young guys will be around for a long, long time because they’re super talented young men, so the experience that they have is in their back pocket. 

“How important is it to get back on the horse, kick it in the guts and get on with it? It’s massively important. This team will never be together again – no team is from year to year. We all know that some people are moving on.

“It’s an opportunity for us to go and express some things on Friday that we find particularly special. We have to represent the legacy of the jersey and show that we can play well again.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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