“Matters of the body are not the issue.” –Working Class Rugger
WOLLOGONG, AUSTRALIA – My old man used to love to constantly remind me that regardless of what it may appear to be like from the outside looking in, Rugby was in fact far more cerebral than it was physical. That’s saying a lot considering there really are very few more physical sporting endeavors to undertake.
As far as he was concerned, the game was roughly about 30% physical and 70% mental. At the time, I would have to say I disagreed with him. Size, particularly in the junior ranks, is paramount to success. Even skills were secondary in many respects.
However, as I advanced in my career and played at increasingly higher levels against many of the guys who currently fill the roster of all 5 of Australia’s Super Rugby franchises – as well as a number of Wallaby caps – I quickly came to understand that a players greatest asset in the game was his ability to out think and out-enthuse your opposition. Prime examples of this are the perennial powerhouse in the All Blacks. When you assess their continued dominance of the game, you would be correct in the belief that they are the toughest and most skillful side in world rugby – because simply they are. That’s an unquestionable fact.
However, that’s not what sets them about from the ever-congested chasing pack. In a recent discussion it was noted that during the last Bledisloe encounter, the AIG All Blacks (ABs) forwards were noticeably dominant over the Wallabies. Very similar to that of last weekend at HQ. One line of thought was that they lacked the physical preparation and were not at the same level of physical size and strength to that of the AB counterparts. In my opinion, that’s far off what the real issue is. In a professional era, each and every player who participates at the games highest level in its elite tier of competition are exposed to and undertake the highest degree of physical training and education. Matters of the body are not the issue.
What the ABs possesses over every other team is not just superior Rugby intelligence but an indelible mentality that does not hope they are out to win but knows it will a herculean effort for the opposition to prevent the overarching sense of inevitability it has developed. The ABS are not the best because they believe they are the best. They know it.
As powerful as that mentality is, when you find yourself trapped at the other end of the scale, it has the ability to be immensely crippling. A team stuck in such a rut can lead at half time only to fall into the trap of becoming disorientated and ineffective when faced with adversity – instead of galvanizing their efforts… Much like the Wallabies of this season.
Experts will talk of the need for developing nations to develop the rugby brain in order to become increasingly competitive. It’s true. Having the players who know the game and there position is vital. But even then, it’ not enough. In a game that is more minds over matter you must have a mentality of success and ambition to succeed.
This weekend Italy lost to the Wallabies in Turin. As a loyal fan I was backing the Wallabies but going into the game I was not that confident. Considering the frailties we possess and doubts that are clearly evident among the team through its play. I’m concerned.
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