#18 The Webb Ellis Trophy will be won by the top two inches
The physicality of World Cup rugby is a given. The differentiator is the mental stuff.
Why this matters
Yes, of course, you want players of exceptional skills and strength and speed and stamina.
All those attributes are the ones that the sports scientists can replicate for you. And all the other teams are doing it, too.
The difference comes in how each player thinks about “What should I do next?” What are the other team doing? What are my team mates doing? Where on the field should I be? What could go wrong, for us or for them? Weather, ground, light. A hundred variables to compute each second.
That’s where the coaching staff make the difference: by helping each player make the best decision about ‘next’ a thousand times a match.
That’s the difference between good coaches and great coaches. The former inculcate patterns of physical behaviour. The latter have training systems that build up players’ mental stamina and agility, so that they can make split-second good decisions under pressure.
Back in 2015 Shag set out his approach:
“Our job is to make the complex simple,” he said. “The simpler you can make it for somebody, the easier it is to do it.”
And late in a match, when the oxygen deficit is really beginning to hit – and even more if you need to go deep into extra time – having simple ideas in your head will be the difference.