All Blacks pay tribute to miners

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The Independent Online

The New Zealand rugby team paid tribute today to the miners killed in the country's pit disaster.

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen said the thoughts and prayers of everyone involved in their British Isles touring party were with the families affected by the tragedy at the Pike River mine.

Authorities have said there is almost no hope of any of the 29 men trapped underground being saved after a second huge explosion at the mine near Greymouth on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island.

Prime minister John Key has described the deaths of the 24 New Zealanders, two Britons, two Australians and a South African as a national tragedy.

And Hansen, whose side are preparing for a potential Grand Slam clinching clash with Wales at the Millennium Stadium, says the All Blacks will hope to pay their own tribute to those who lost their lives on Saturday.

"It's a terrible tragedy and you just can't imagine what the families are going through," he said.

"All our wishes, thoughts and prayers are going out to them and hopefully we can do something positive on Saturday.

"We have not had a team gathering since hearing that everyone has passed but we had a function last night and we said a prayer for the victims and families and I am sure there will be something happening on Saturday.

"I should imagine there will be a minute's silence and we will probably wear white armbands instead of black so they can be seen, although I am not sure of that, but we will definitely do something."

Hansen also revealed that the team are providing support to New Zealand Rugby Union president John Sturgeon, a former miner who knows many of the families affected.

Hansen said: "He is struggling to be fair, he knows a lot of the families and has been a miner himself. So we are rallying round him as best we can and everyone is very sympathetic towards him and those involved."

Prior to becoming a full-time professional coach, Hansen worked as a policeman in Canterbury, and he empathised with those rescue workers who were unable to help the trapped men.

"The people involved will be traumatised, gutted and frustrated as they would have wanted to try and find the guys," he added.

"But on the other hand there was nothing they could do, it was a tragedy that prevented their rescue."