England

Are All Blacks the best team ever?

Wed, 13 Nov 2013 08:53
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Reach new levels mentally as a group
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An English newspaper has exposed the All Blacks' motivational methods after gaining access to the tourist's team meeting room.

A reporter from The Daily Telegraph took a note of written messages on the walls of the room at the New Zealand team's London hotel shortly before the players and coaches used it for a debrief meeting earlier this week.

The messages were mostly motivational and aimed at boosting morale ahead of Saturday's Test against England.

According to reporter Oliver Brown the All Blacks, desperate to avenge their only defeat in 32 matches, told the players: "We are the most dominant team in the history of the world."

The motivational mantra was one of a series delivered to the world champions ahead of their match against England at Twickenham this weekend, 12 months after they suffered a record 38-21 defeat by Stuart Lancaster's team.

They were scrawled on a whiteboard, according to Brown, inside the aptly named Lancaster Suite at Kensington's Royal Garden Hotel, and together gave an insight into how the All Blacks plan to intimidate England, along with a vow to "reach new levels mentally as a group".

Contradicting their public insistence that the match on Saturday was not about vengeance for the record 38-21 defeat against Lancaster's men 12 months ago, the coaching staff have also written a note that reads: "We are playing England - this is about history, about human nature."

The All Blacks' philosophy formed a fascinating combination of statistical analysis and self-help techniques. Alongside a detailed breakdown of possession percentages was the message: "On Saturday, don't moan, even to yourself".

Their main priority for the confrontation with England was identified as "line-out delivery". The New Zealand backs, far from their devastating best in a tense 26-19 win against France last weekend, were urged - on a sheet headed "responses to strengthen this week" - to "use your shoulders, see both sides, and concentrate on your breathing".

For head coach Steve Hansen and his lieutenants, this rematch with England is about personal as well as national pride. The humbling at Twickenham last autumn marked their only defeat in 32 matches, since Hansen replaced Graham Henry after New Zealand's triumph at the 2011 World Cup.

As such, Hansen led an extended session on Monday reviewing video of the flawed performance in Paris, determined that his players should rediscover the aura so conspicuously lacking in the shock result last season.

While England target the No.2 spot in the world rankings with a repeat performance this weekend, New Zealand's overriding priority is to emphasise their traditional dominance and reaffirm their place at No.1.

Lancaster has been quite the Kiwi-phile in recent months, visiting New Zealand in June to gather intelligence on England's opponents this weekend, but their assistant coach Ian Foster cautioned that the essence of the All Blacks could not be easily emulated.

"Yeah, he pops up at a few of our games," Foster said. "He is just doing his job and being thorough, I guess, but whether it works I'm not sure. What we do is hard to do, hard to copy, because it is designed specifically to suit our players."

Courtesy of their intensive team-talks this week, the players are in no doubt as to the coaches' expectations come Saturday. Israel Dagg, the All Blacks' consummate full-back, said: "We have an opportunity this week, and we are very clear about our roles. What happened last year is in the past and our focus is on representing our families and our country."

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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