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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — As the focus of the earnest hopes of a nation which venerates sporting achievement, All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen insists “I’m just a normal bloke.”
It falls to Hansen to attempt the unprecedented feat of guiding New Zealand to victory at a third consecutive Rugby World Cup.
It’s no small matter in a nation where stock markets can fluctuate on the success of the national rugby team, and where elections can be influenced by the feel-good factor of a World Cup victory.
Hansen was referring specifically to the adoring reception he has received from Japanese fans since the All Blacks’ arrival at their World Cup base, not to his standing among New Zealanders. Rugby is New Zealand’s national game, and its obsession, but it celebrates high achievers without deifying them.
Hansen’s standing and the scrutiny his decisions and public statements receive is more in keeping with that of the prime minister; every aspect of his stewardship of the All Blacks is news and the subject of exhaustive public debate.
“You can’t be in avoidance of it, you’ve got to live normally and I’ve tried to do that from day one,” Hansen said. “As an All Black coach you’re under scrutiny, but I’ve tried to live a normal life as much a
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