As the official World Rugby caption ran; England’s incredible response to intense New Zealand Haka. The moment the world cup semi-final was won happened immediately prior to the starting whistle.
An Englishmen, I am not alone in viewing the New Zealand ‘haka’ as one of the biggest disgraces in modern sport. The sooner it is consigned to their changing room privacy, the better.
So it is doubly delightful this rarity of a team working out a way to nullify it.
The sport’s ruling body (as embarrassing as any such global body) have in place a ‘protocol’ for how opposing teams must stand for this ridiculous post-anthem, pre-kick-off panto.
What England did here was instantly hailed a masterstroke. Undoubtedly mindgamed by their mischievously meddling Australian coach, Eddie Jones. It’s already labelled as The England Chevron, Arrowhead, and even the Mighty Duck Flying V.
At its head, the skipper smugly smirked his way into the country’s Legends echelon and emoji-meme folklore.
The game began with a cheeky set-play, the pace relentless, and a resulting try in little over a minute for England set the tone. Rugby’s dominant nation shellshocked into submission. Their stranglehold on the ultimate prize broken.
The selling message in here builds on one of my most-oft cited sporting learnings;
always do what your opponent would least like you to do.
Precisely what the victorious coach included in the tie’s week of preparation;
“you can make them uncomfortable … take the game to them … put them on the backfoot”
What gives them a jolt. Makes them think. Pushes them no matter how slightly off their normal axis. Disrupts their rhythm. Takes them into that place of discomfort where mistakes a remade that let you in.
Every competitor whom you’re trying to knock off their perch can be successfully approached in similar fashion. Your first, almost pre-engagement, encounter can see your tempo adopted. Are you preparing to take their crown?