Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Significance of Christchurch test not lost on Hansen

The All Blacks' training venue in Christchurch today was only a few kilometres from the epicentre of the aftershock that jolted awake many of the players in the early hours of the morning.

At 4.2 magnitude it wasn't big on the grand scale of things but many Christchurch residents said it felt stronger. There was minor damage reported in some suburbs. Certainly, many of the players got a fright when woken in their hotel near Hagley Park when it struck just after 2.30am.

It was appropriate that the squad trained at Linwood Rugby Club today, on a pitch among the finest in Canterbury but in a suburb which hasn't stood up to the ravages of the earthquakes quite as well. The poorer eastern suburbs, of which Linwood is one, have borne the brunt of the quakes.

The shake was also a timely reminder for some of the All Blacks as the first test to be held in Christchurch since the Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in August 2010, approaches. Although, given 10 of the current squad come from the Crusaders, many already know what this city has gone through over the past 21 months.

"It's been an emotional time for Christchurch, and particularly this side of town,'' coach Steve Hansen said. "There's a lot of people who have been forgotten. Hopefully we can put on a performance on Saturday that they can be proud of and we can be proud of and we can put a smile on their face for a wee while and take the burden of what's happening in the city off their shoulders.

"Coming home and playing in front of your home crowd is always something that is right up there and I'll look forward to doing that too. [I have] a lot of friends and family in the city.''

Hansen, who had to move out of his Halswell house after it was wrecked by the first quake in September 2010, knows the mood of the city as well as anyone.

Although the All Blacks visited Christchurch for several days during the World Cup, no games were played here, something Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock is well aware of.

"It's pretty special to come home during a test week,'' Whitelock said. "To run out on Saturday is going to be awesome for the team. I think all of Christchurch and the Canterbury region is going to really enjoy it.

"Obviously last year during the World Cup we came down and had a week here and that was awesome. It was almost a bit of a tease for them, they had the week but not the test match. But they get the whole hog now.''

Hansen said little needed to be said to the team about the special circumstances of the match.

"We did a lot of that last year when we came down for the World Cup for the visit. Most people are aware of what's going on. Guys have organised to go and visit things in their own groups. Half the team is from here anyway. They've filled the boys in, pretty much. There was a bit of a shake last night and those that don't live in Christchurch got a welcome.''

If nothing else, it's a reminder to keep things in perspective, Hansen said.

"I'm a firm believer that this game is a great game but it is only a game and life is real. There will be days when the game doesn't give us a great result or a great lot of emotion. You think back to 2007 [World Cup defeat in Wales] - it was tough but the real life when I got back home was mum had cancer so you put it into perspective.''

- APNZ

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