Hansen: Rugby is 'just a game'
LIONS TOUR SPOTLIGHT: 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's 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."