Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mental strength defined this All Blacks team

It was somewhat fitting that the most important All Blacks game in years wasn’t won by flashy skills or immaculate play, but with a mental performance where the spectre of a famous French upset didn’t break the team’s resolve.

A 8-7 win saw the All Blacks doggedly defend their line through a frantic second half based on the French fighting back into the contest, a test that was about turning up on the night and dealing with the pressure.

Assistant coach Wayne Smith felt that the All Blacks were proud to play some attractive rugby at times, but said that it wasn’t just mental strength that was needed, but the spirit driven by the famous black jersey.

"We played a lot of great rugby over the last eight years,” Smith said.

“Sometimes it just comes down to what you have got under the fern and what you have got in the top two inches.”

Smith heads to Waikato to be Dave Rennie’s assistant at the Chiefs in 2012, and he lauded a team that kept getting up and doing the job.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw believes that a team’s intensity comes from how quickly the get back off the ground, and Smith said that this was displayed throughout the World Cup Final.

"They showed that character and ability to get up and make another tackle,” Smith said.

“I just feel so privileged to be part of this."

Assistant coach Steve Hansen agreed that the team’s mental strength had grown, but also hailed the belief of the side, and the belief of each player in the squad.

"The mental side of our team has grown considerably since 2007. We have won a couple of games like that that have been really tight," Hansen said.

"Tonight we knew the French would play as they did and they were outstanding. But the pleasing thing was we showed a lot of ticker but we also showed a lot of belief in not only ourselves but the guy that was standing alongside you.

"That belief is bone deep within this group. When it is bone deep you can achieve things like we did tonight. Probably in other cases the score might have gone the other way. But because this group of men believe in each other and themselves that well, they hung in there and hung in there and it rubs off on other people."

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