Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rugby: Henry safe on Christchurch streets, but feels for English

All Blacks’ coach Graham Henry may have expected an awkward week personally in Christchurch but he takes no pleasure in England attracting all the negative attention ahead of the second rugby test tomorrow.

This is Henry's first official visit to red and black country since heading off Canterbury and Crusaders’ icon Robbie Deans for the All Blacks post.

His stocks here would not have improved this month when he included just seven members of the Super 14 champion Crusaders in his first squad of 2008.

However, Henry said he had felt relaxed this week in the city where he was born and raised and had enjoyed support from all those he came across.

"The people are extremely friendly and positive and wish you well. I haven't had a negative since the rugby World Cup, directly," he said.
Instead, all adverse vibes this week are centred around the English and the police investigation into an alleged incident at their Auckland hotel on Sunday morning.

Police confirmed this morning for the first time that the allegations are that a woman was raped and/or sexually assaulted by four players.

Henry said he had not given the English problems a great deal of thought but had empathy for how it reflected negatively on the team and their players.

"I don't know what the details are, I know there's a bit going on. You don't want any sporting team to be going through those situations. You live that sort of life yourselves in a sporting international environment and you have a lot of sympathy for people who go through that situation... certainly you have some thoughts which are that you'd just like to be supportive," he said.

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen believed it would bring the tourists tighter and make them more dangerous opponents than in last weekend's 20-37 loss at Eden Park.
Henry left such surmising up to others.

"We just focus on what we have to do, that hasn't changed. We're trying to improve our performance from the last test match, trying to go up the graph a bit. What else is happening doesn't affect us really," he said.

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