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All Blacks embarrassed, ill, but ready for England

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Sportal.co.nz     30 Nov 2012     Getty Images

On Wednesday, Hore was suspended for five weeks for striking Davies from behind in an attack that left the Wales second row with concussion.

Crucially, however, the Highlanders hooker will only miss two competitive matches - the first against England on Saturday - with provincial pre-season games accounting for the other three.

The International Rugby Board's judicial officer has been criticised for the decision and Hansen sympathises with the objections.

"You don't want to see that in the game. Andrew was embarrassed, we were embarrassed. Our thoughts were with Bradley Davies," the All Blacks coach said.

"I understand the issue with pre-season games being included and can see that being quite frustrating, but that's the rules the IRB set and we live within those rules.

"Although we might say they're only pre-season games, [Highlanders coach] Jamie Joseph might not say the same thing.

"Do we agree with it? Probably not, but it's there."

Davies was knocked out by Hore's swinging forearm and will miss Saturday's clash with Australia as a result.

Wales coach Rob Howley branded the 34-year-old's action as 'an absolute disgrace' and Hansen also condemned an incident that he insisted was out of character.

"We don't want to see that in the game and although we love Andrew, we didn't love what he did," Hansen said.

"The intent was to do something else but he got it drastically wrong. As a result of that he hit the man on the chin and knocked him out.

"Andrew has played 300 first-class games and not made that mistake before so clearly he's not a dirty player.

"But in this instance he's made a poor decision and has paid for it. Our group has a zero-tolerance approach to foul play, we're not a dirty side.

"For me it's about taking responsibility, whether it's an accident or not, and we've done that in this case.

"We hope people will accept that and I know Bradley Davies has from his conversations with Andrew.

"Andrew's already said he let us down. If it's one of your own children at some stage you've got to learn to forgive.

"He's been given the message by us and the IRB and now we've forgiven him."

Hore's forearm smash and subsequent disciplinary hearing have not been the only distractions to the 1/12 favourites' preparations for Saturday's clash.

All but two of the squad have been afflicted by Norovirus, the vomiting and diarrhoea bug that is sweeping the nation, although Hansen anticipates no withdrawals from the 23 to face England.

The virus struck in the build up to Saturday's 33-10 victory over Wales and many of the players spent yesterday's down day confined to their bedrooms.

Even if any lingering sickness remains when they arrive at Twickenham, the All Blacks should enjoy a successful conclusion to their season.

Unbeaten in 20 Tests and eager to give skipper Richie McCaw a triumphant send-off before beginning his six-month sabbatical, they appear destined to maintain their decade-long mastery of European opposition during the autumn.

Only a seismic upset will topple the world champions, but Hansen refuses to underestimate an England side that has endured successive defeats to Australia and South Africa.

"They will be desperate. [England coach] Stuart Lancaster is doing a pretty good job and has a fair idea of what he wants, but it will take him time," he said.

"He's had to bring in a lot of young guys because they have probably hung onto guys too long in the past.

"But they will be physical and the back three is as good a back three as in world rugby.

"If we go out and play badly we will be hacked off. If we go out and play well and get beaten then you accept it."

The All Blacks team for the Test is: 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Dan Carter, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Dane Coles, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Victor Vito, 21.Piri Weepu, 22.Aaron Cruden, 23.Ben Smith.