Hansen plays down importance of All Blacks' Lions decider


All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen insisted there are much more important things in life than New Zealand beating the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's blockbuster showdown.

With the three-Test series locked at 1-1, world champions the All Blacks and the Lions will do battle for bragging rights at Eden Park in Auckland.

Not since 1998 have New Zealand lost back-to-back home games - a record at risk following last week's 24-21 defeat in Wellington - while the Lions' most recent series victory over the All Blacks was in 1971.

But Hansen - a former policeman - attempted to play down the importance of the series decider, which has been compared to a Rugby World Cup final by Lions assistant Neil Jenkins.

"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. Life teaches us that all the time," Hansen said via the Telegraph.

"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."

Hansen, who on Thursday confirmed Ben Smith has been cleared of concussion symptoms, continued: "Yes, it will go down in history that we lost the series, or that we won the series, but it's really irrelevant in the long term of a player's career. Because he'll have to move on to the Rugby Championship. Whilst in that moment, it will hurt. We'll let it go pretty quickly. You can't hang on to it.

"It's like 2015, we won the World Cup. But then, OK, so what? You've got to win next year too, and you have to move on. So you get a wee moment to either sulk or celebrate, but you've got to keep moving, because if you don't keep moving, someone is going to run you over. And there's an expectation in this country that you keep moving, an expectation that we're good at what we do. We understand that, so it doesn't become a burden, it actually becomes a challenge."

Highlighting the retirement of inspirational captain Richie McCaw and the departures of others following New Zealand's World Cup triumph in 2015, Hansen added: "It's been hard. Harder than people realise.

"You lose people like Keven Mealamu, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Tony Woodcock. All of them, bar Conrad, have played over 100 games. And that's a lot of experience in big moments, a lot of adversity, because that's where we grow up the best, when we have adversity in our life."