London - Steve
Hansen may be one defeat away from becoming only the second New Zealand
rugby coach to lose a Test series to the British and Irish Lions, but
he is keen to put that into perspective.
Whilst rugby is like a religion to the Kiwis, Hansen told a group of
British rugby journalists his previous experience as a policeman has
prepared him well should the Lions beat them in Auckland on Saturday.
The two sides go into the game locked at 1-1 and with the Lions,
under Hansen's compatriot Warren Gatland, sensing they can emulate
Carwyn James' 1971 tourists in securing the series.
"By then I had a lot of experience in different things that had
shaped me as the person I am today," said the 58-year-old who joined the
police when he was 30.
"Policing became one of those things, no greater than the others.
"But it did expose me to a couple of people who were very influential
on me and it exposed me to experiences that give you a sense of reality
that rugby’s just a game."
Hansen, who during a torrid time as Wales head coach lost all five
Six Nations games in the 2003 campaign and in a newspaper poll was
listed as the second most hated man in Wales behind Osama bin Laden and
just ahead of Saddam Hussein, sought to relativise Saturday's match.
"At the end of the day, it’s an important game, but it's just a game,
and don't lose sight of that because there are some real things
happening that are a hell of a lot more important," said Hansen.
"Life teaches us that all the time.
"It hurts to lose a game of footie, but it hurts a lot more to lose
someone you love or to deal with people who've lost someone they love.
"It teaches you to keep it all in perspective. Don’t get too carried
away with yourself," added Hansen, who knows from bitter experience
having twice been on tour when his parents died.
Hansen, who took over the All Blacks when Graham Henry stepped down
after winning the 2011 World Cup, says that being brought up on the
family farm where his father Des trained racehorses also prepared him
well for dealing with rugby thoroughbreds.
"With our horses, they've got their own problems, their own fears and insecurities, just like people," said Hansen.
"Some horses you can push around and get what you want just by sheer
force, but some horses won't like that and react in a bad way - you
don’t want your horse rearing up.
"So how am I going to deal with that horse? I'm going to have to deal
with it in a different way, I'm going to have to look for the cues.
People are the same."