Albeit this Rugby World Cup was a disappointment for England, it did not take away from the spectacle of the occasion and anticipation of two great Rugby nations squaring up to each other.
New Zealand in my view were worthy winners, not only effective from playing the game well, strategically and tactically, but how they were as a team, how they held themselves and the people they were during the tournament. Fundamentally for me there were three key factors that made the All Blacks great role models, both at a team and individual level:
Humility in Victory.
The intensity of competition (especially on the global stage of course) can no doubt bring out the worst in us as human beings. We are in that survival, fight or flight mode and emotions can inevitably overtake thinking to deliver balanced judgement and rationality.
For the All Blacks, in the words of Richie McCaw, ‘there was a quiet satisfaction of a job well done’. That says it all, they were planned, considered and knew what they needed to do to execute the plan, thinking and remaining objective under such intense scrutiny. These guys are now used to winning, they are now in the land of the ‘winning habit’ and for them, when they have delivered on the job they need to, it’s about inviting the opposition into the changing room to share a beer, whether its Australia or Namibia.
Sonny Bill Williams has also hit the feel-good headlines, a marvelous ‘icing on the cake’ moment to sign off the All Blacks campaign. A passionate young fan overwhelmed by the occasion and seeing his heroes just beyond the pitch barrier, hurdles over to join them. Promptly brought to the ground himself by a security guard, he’s helped up by SBW who walks him over to his family and then takes off his winners medal and places it around the neck of the young fan. That moment for that boy and many children (and adults) watching, will no doubt cement a valuable life lesson.
That’s a rare moment and was done so naturally that you knew for SBW it wasn’t about the medal, the job was done and it was time to enjoy the moment and share the victory with his team and the fans.
Strong Leadership and two guys to mention here.
The first is Richie McCaw and what a lucky group of fourteen players who have had the privilege to play under him during his captaincy. As with many a great leader his commitment is absolute and consistent, alongside natural gravitas and presence. He has ensured that both he and the team have enjoyed the experience of their work and not just grafted to win trophies. Perhaps most importantly though, when you look at him on the pitch you know that he wants the best for his team and every single one of his players with him.
The second is Steve Hansen and what a contrast to someone like Jose Mourinho hitting the headlines this week. The humble leader, working in the background, quietly going about his business and only interested in the shared team goal. When individual aspirations and ego come into play that’s when it all unravels because it’s not about the team anymore. The way Hansen handles himself, you know that he has effectively built trust, allows others their limelight, he is articulate, reflective in his calculations to improve and do better next time.
Self Belief and Confidence.
These guys backed each other and have been in the winning habit for some time. That creates great know-how and a comfort zone around winning, knowing what they need to do under pressure and how to support each other in getting the job done.
Well done New Zealand and perhaps the winning formula for England – one chief – who will effectively build trust and lead from a depth of experience, capability and gravitas.