Come On You All Blacks
I’ve just watched New Zealand demolish Japan 83-7 in their group game in the Rugby World Cup. This followed a ‘disappointing’ opening performance from the All Blacks in which they could only beat Tonga 41-10! Such are the expectations of the host nation’s fans and media that nothing short of perfection seems acceptable.
These expectations have weighed heavier and heavier on the players’ and management’s shoulders over the years since their only World Cup triumph in 1987. Since then, they have promised so much but failed to deliver when it really matters.
Despite being a Brit, I hope fortunes favour the All Blacks and that they lift the Cup on 23rd October. And for two reasons. First, I fear for the players and management if they fail. In a nation where rugby is an important part of the culture, there will be no hiding from the intense and extended spotlight that will expose every flaw in their preparation, strategy and performance.
The second reason I’d like to see New Zealand triumph is their coach, Graham Henry. I worked closely with Graham when I was psychologist to the Wales rugby team. I would spend the whole of the week before a big game with the team and had the opportunity to watch him at very close quarters. He knows all about the pressure of public expectation from those days he spent in the Welsh valleys.
Graham is probably the best coach I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside. He is a big thinker who is always striving to be innovative. His honesty went down well with the players and team management, although his views on how the game should be run weren’t always shared by his bosses, the Welsh Rugby Union. Graham is a great example of a ‘real’ leader and is also a really nice bloke. Come on you All Blacks.