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Baby boom trips up All Blacks

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The days of All Blacks putting rugby ahead of their families appear to be long gone, as soon-to-be fathers Chris Jack and Doug Howlett are to take paternity leave and missing important games in coming weeks.

Both Jack and Howlett will miss the All Blacks’ first Tri-Nations test against South Africa in Durban to be with their families.

Jack has also made himself unavailable for Saturday’s one-off test against Canada in Hamilton, as his wife is expecting their first child this weekend.

Howlett’s paternity leave will start a week later. He will play this weekend, but will not travel to South Africa when his fiancee is due.

Coach Graham Henry cannot understand why there is even debate surrounding whether the players should put the All Blacks ahead of their families.

“Whether you’re an All Black, a bank manager or a farmer, you have paternity leave,” Henry told NZPA.

“If you look at society today, most fathers are with their partners during this time and spend considerable time afterwards, which I think is a very positive thing.

“I’d say the older age group would say ‘oh, this is different’. But the younger age groups would probably be totally supportive.”

Jack and Howlett, both 28, are the most experienced test players in the All Black squad with 59 and 56 caps to their names respectively, and are more than capable of making their own decisions.

“I don’t think it’s a tough call for the modern young man today,” Henry told the New Zealand Press Association.

“Things have changed over a period of time and I think it has changed for the better. People are putting their lives first and I totally agree with it.

“There are other things more important than rugby, believe it or not.”

When asked what would happen if the same situation arose at a World Cup, a dry Henry said he hoped his players would get their “timing” right in that regard.

There had been a chance Jack’s leave would not be until later this month but a specialist yesterday confirmed the baby was due this weekend.

Assistant coach Steve Hansen said no one would look twice at Jack’s decision if there was not the present injury drama surrounding the All Black locks’.

Injuries to Ali Williams and Keith Robinson last Saturday have left the locking stocks threadbare.

“From day one we’ve tried to grow the mantle that better people make better All Blacks,” Hansen said.

“I would suggest that being alongside your wife or your partner when she’s having a baby is being a better person.”

 

365 Digital

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