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Henry thinks of family as World Cup nears end

Updated: October 20, 2011, 20:11


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) All Blacks coach Graham Henry says his 95-year-old mother will be delighted when the Rugby World Cup is over because she thinks he's under too much pressure.

He assures her that's not the case; he says he's surrounded by knowledgeable coaches, a talented management team and a large group of experienced players who take so much responsibility that he has little to do ahead of Sunday's final against France. She's not reassured.

Henry's comments Friday were light-hearted but served to highlight the fact that the pressure top coaches are under, the praise and criticism they receive, impacts also on their families.

When New Zealand was beaten by France in the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup, Henry was surrounded by family members who later had to suffer silently the vitriol directed at the coach by a disgruntled nation.

Asked on Friday what a World Cup victory would mean to his family, Henry replied "Peace. Inner, eternal peace.''

"Mum's still alive, she's 95,'' he said. "She'll be delighted when it's finished, absolutely delighted because she thinks I'm under pressure. She doesn't understand that I don't do much. And my wife will be rejoicing.''

Henry said the position of the families of top coaches, whose defeats are often met with heavy public criticism, was always "difficult and under-appreciated.'' They were essentially powerless to do more than support a son, husband or father as they faced, in the glare of a public spotlight in this rugby crazy country, the most serious challenges of their professional lives.

"I think when you're doing a job, you're at the coalface, you can do things and you've got some effect on what happens out there,'' he said. "But when you're close to the people who are doing the job but you're not involved, that's a very difficult situation to be in.

"So the people who are close to you will feel big relief once this World Cup is over.''

Henry has the chance on Sunday's final to expunge his personal disappointment at the All Blacks' failure to win the World Cup under his coaching in 2007. His family shared the distress engendered by that defeat and he hoped on Sunday they might share the thrill of victory.

"I've got two boys and a daughter and they were all in Cardiff in 2007,'' he said. "The two boys arrived on Friday night for the finals and 24 hours later it was all over.

"The big thing is that on the Sunday morning for that group of people it was a very emotional time. We've got a lot of friends in Cardiff and we were around at one of our friend's place and were all together and they had their partners as well. And I'm just hoping that we can get together on Sunday night and things can be a little bit different.''

Henry seemed relaxed and affable only two days out from a World Cup final which will likely define his seven-year All Blacks coaching career. The pressure his mother feared he was under wasn't immediately apparent in his demeanor.

"What you see on the outside is probably not a good reflection,'' he joked. "I've said previous times, I think going through this experience before is a real positive and this is the third World Cup that I've been involved with.

"We have an extremely talented management group and that helps immensely and the players are experienced as well.''

Henry said his own duties in the week before the final were relatively light. The senior players had taken most of the responsibility for the team's preparation.

"They've taken ownership, taken responsibility and so they've taken a huge responsibility in this particularly team,'' he said, "and I've had nothing to do.''

The players have looked to their families for support this week through what might be the biggest match of their lives. Team management have allowed partners and children to be closely involved with the squad during its World Cup campaign and players say that's been vital to their preparation for Sunday's final.

"Since having my kids it's made me more determined to achieve my goals and that's to play in the World Cup,'' flanker Jerome Kaino said. "Given that I've played in the World Cup already but that we've got a World Cup final on Sunday, it does give you a lot of motivation to go out and do the job.

"A lot of guys in the team have young families and it's a good thing for a lot of those guys. It gives them extra incentive to go out there and play really well.''

Hooker Keven Mealamu is a devoted family man who says his young children have kept him grounded over the past six weeks.

"It's very special to have my kids along for the ride on this, just a real special moment,'' he said. "It's a really special time because a lot us have family around and it's been really cool to have it here in New Zealand where all our parents and our cousins and brothers and sisters are.''

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