Valedictory day for departing All Blacks

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As well as being the last game in a connection that started back in 2004 for coach Steve Hansen, it is also the farewell for captain and No.8 Kieran Read (pictured with Rieko Ioane) and long-serving players like wing Ben Smith and mid-fielder Ryan Crotty.


In the midst of it all hooker Dane Coles professed his desire to be involved again with the side next year.


Hansen still had his attention on Friday's game, against Wales, the side he first coached in international rugby.


"A lot of people might be saying there's not a lot on it and they could throw the ball around.


"I think there is a lot on it. For them it would be like winning the World Cup if they win this one, maybe," he said.


"This is the first time I've had to do this [prepare for the bronze medal game]. They [England] played better than us. You can talk about it all you like but you only know what it's like when you suffer it.


"I don't want to compare rugby to death but it's like someone losing a family member to a car crash."


Of the selection for the Wales game, he said: "It's a good backline. You're pretty lucky if you can sub [Jack] Goodhue and [Anton] Lienert-Brown with SBW and Crotty and [Sevu] Reece and [George] Bridge with Ben Smith and Rieko [Ioane].

Hansen wouldn't be drawn on what not being around with the side would mean to him.


"It's not about me, it's about the team. We have to get on with it and hopefully show last week was a blip."


Regarding Kieran Read, he said, "He's a special player and I've been lucky enough to work with him for a long, long time. We identified early that he would be the next leader after Richie, He would have led in a lot more games but for a guy who played 148 Test matches – flankers aren't meant to do that.


"He himself played a lot of rugby in a position that's tough. He's charistmatic, the boys love him, the management all love him. There's a huge amount of respect for him. To come back from where he was with his back – people won't understand just how hard that was.


"He was really driven to do well at this World Cup and have the team do well. But at the same time he's got up and led really well this week. That shows his character," Hansen said.


Read said it had been a 'weird few days' after the semifinal loss. Building up for the Wales game was different.


"It does require a bit of strength, knowing it's the game we didn't want to be in. We're hurting and will be hurting for a long time to come," he said.


While the Wales game would be his 127th Test, he acknowledged he was ready to leave.


"I've had my time in the jersey and it's time for someone else to step in. It's hard, but I've known for a couple of years – the mind is willing but the body is saying, 'I can't do this anymore'.


"It's been great, a real pleasure, an honour. I'm just so grateful to have been part of this team for a number of years.


"It's been a rollercoaster over the last few days but I've loved every minute.


"It's my last week to be with these men I call good mates. I just want to go out and enjoy the time with those blokes," he said.


Offering his own thoughts on Hansen, Read said: "He pushed me to better myself as a player. He's a world-class operator and is what this team represents."


The attitude he had contributed to the side would see the All Blacks soon bounce back.


"The group of men we've got are so committed to the All Blacks. They know what it means to be an All Black – I think we're in good hands," he said.


Crotty, who will play his 48th Test, said while he wasn't involved against England the disappointment hit all members of the squad.


"It was gutting watching from the sidelines. Just like, I am sure, the emotion that has been portrayed by the guys that were playing, we ride the same wave.


"We are invested just as deeply as they are. We are just going through all the same emotions as they would," Crotty said.


"You have to bottle that hurt and use it as emotion. Just using that as motivation, and the way I want to play this weekend," he said.


The bronze game would be a chance to channel the hurt but it would also be a continuation of the team ethos of mateship and wanting to do it with mates, and for the jersey.


An emotional Coles explained the hurt of the semifinal loss had been helped by having his family in Japan.


"It's been real good, having my family here. There biggest thing for me is just life experiences. I never went overseas until I was about 15, and my kids have actually come here to go to Disneyland. My parents have come too, so it has been good.


"I still pinch myself because there were a couple of times I didn't think [playing in a World Cup] was likely. I'd love to be in the All Blacks next year. I love playing for this team.


"I still have a desire to pull on that black jersey and represent my country so there will be a strong desire to work hard next year and get back into the team because I love it and care about," he said.


That desire would always be there and he said it was important to learn from what the side had been through in Japan.


"There's a lot of young guys who, hopefully, take a hell of a lot out of it. This is going to be one [loss] that hangs around. We just have to use it in the right way," he said.


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