TOKYO, 18 Oct - Steve Hansen is looking forward to the prospect of a famous sporting double this weekend. The horse that the New Zealand coach co-owns will be galloping for glory in one of the richest races in the world just a few hours before he intends to steer the All Blacks into the winner's enclosure at Tokyo Stadium.
No guesses, though, which of his twin challenges - watching Nature Strip try to win The Everest or working to pilot New Zealand to victory in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final - will exercise his mind more.
"The one I've got some control over," said Hansen, who once dreamed of being a jockey, after unveiling his team to play Ireland on Thursday.
"It's a highlight to have a horse running in a race like The Everest but there's not a lot I can do. I can't ride him, I can't carry him, I can't train him - so it's just a matter of sitting back and enjoying that for what it is.
"But you can have an influence during the week with this All Blacks team and we've tried to do that, creating an environment where we get to Saturday with them excited, full of energy and ready to rumble."
The 60-year-old is hoping to catch TV coverage of The Everest - the world's richest race on turf, boasting a prize pot of 14 million Australian dollars - which is held at Royal Randwick racecourse in Sydney, pictured top, and attracts the best sprinters on the planet.
Hansen is one of 15 owners of the lightning-fast Nature Strip, who has already won some world-class races, and may well be the quickest in the field but should start as an outsider because of a poor draw and doubts about whether the five-year-old gelding has the stamina to last the 1200 metres.
There are no such doubts about Hansen's men, though, who will start not just as firm favourites to beat Ireland but also to go on to win a third successive World Cup title.
Just as teamwork lies behind Nature Strip's chances - the horse is trained by Hansen's fellow New Zealander Chris Waller and ridden by top Australian jockey Tim Clark - Hansen is convinced the strength of the side he has picked to tackle Ireland lies in its depth.
🚨Team Announcement🚨@AllBlacks have named their side to take on @IrishRugby in the quarter-finals at #RWC2019. Thoughts on the team selected? #NZLvIRE #webbelliscup— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 17, 2019
Find out where you can watch at https://t.co/qoBpY19EGA pic.twitter.com/HzDWWEuBWK
He has chosen Jack Goodhue at outside-centre ahead of Sonny Bill Williams, gone for Codie Taylor as hooker instead of the usual starter Dane Coles, and trusted in second-row Brodie Retallick ahead of Scott Barrett, despite his old favourite having played just 30 minutes' rugby in 12 weeks.
Yet Hansen is sure each replacement will also have a big role on Saturday. "We are very fortunate with our bench. It's strong and has been for a long time. When you look at that experience there, it does give you a bit of confidence."
Coles's energy off the bench would, he reckoned, mean one world-class hooker replaces another with "a one-two punch", and when "the freak" Retallick came off, Barrett's pumping legs could provide fresh impetus.
As for Williams, he has scored four tries when coming off the bench in World Cup matches, more than anyone in history, while Jordie Barrett had earned his place in the 23 because he had the potential to "kick goals from well inside his own half or drop-kick goals from halfway".
Hansen says he is not sure his players would like being seen as "his second horse" but, never mind Nature Strip, there is no question he believes each and every one of them is a thoroughbred.