Monday, 8 October 2007

Brains v braindead

Any decent coach is going to find ways to get inside the head of his opposition. A really good coach will be aware his opponents will expect it, yet he'll still find ways to fuck with their heads.

Every way Bernard Laporte devised to fuck with All Blacks' heads worked for him.

The bleating about doping several months ago. The reminders of the 1999 factor. The new black French jerseys (how dare they!). The kerfuffle over the playing strips (what colour are they going to wear?) The derision over the haka (seriously, what colour jerseys are they going to wear? Red? White? Blue?)

The players wearing silver and black stood there arrogantly poking their tongues out at players who were quietly self-confident because they knew their coach had already given them a chance, and a game plan that could win. (And seriously, as a couple of commenters here have suggested, isn't it time to give up the haka? There's brains over on one side thinking through what they have to do; and there's arrogant posturing on the other side chanting "Kill, kill, kill" and thinking it's going to be a walkover.)

And once the game started, Laporte's kicking game (which Laporte was careful to telegraph in advance) was answered not with intelligence and possession and pace, but with Leon bloody McDonald kicking the ball back like the braindead automaton he's always been. Did he notice we were winning our lineouts, and some of theirs, and could settle things down by kicking for territory? Did he realise that (him apart) we had a running back four who could return the ball with interest, and punish the game the French started with? Or that our forwards had dominance, and could rumble up and tire out French legs, as we should have done to start with? Did he think? Did anyone?

Did they notice in the second half, for example, that the French game plan changed in an instant (after NZ were given their half-time instructions and then switched their brains off again), or were they lulled by a first half kicking game and several days of having Laporte send telegraphs about how Les Bleus were going to play, and disarmed by a Frenchman who realised that Les All Blacks are easily needled and unable to think on their feet? When the French game breakers came on, did any All Black notice, turn his brain on and wonder if this presaged something different? A very different game, perhaps?

Did they hell -- All Black brains weren't switched on at all, just as Laporte knew they wouldn't be. This was a game in which the braindead were beaten by brains. Once the brain-fog of mourning subsides, you can only sit back and admire how it was done.


  1. Good commentary PC. Any thoughts on England versus Australia?

  2. Real men don't sing. Real men haka. The French sung their national anthem with great gusto. Bunch of pansies.

  3. Yeah, and the so-called "pansies" won. What does that say for the ABs? Sub-pansies perhaps?

  4. If we had a decent anthem - one worth singing, or at least whistling - we wouldn't need the haka. Any suggestions? And not po-kare-fucking-ana either.

    I think I've only watched one All Black game since Gregan's famous "four more years". This years loss to Australia. I doubt I'll watch a lot more in the next four. The mucking around, outside of the picking-up-the-ball-and-running-with-it really puts me off (as does the fact that I have no tv!).

  5. Hi Yal .. long time, no see. Bad luck re your choice in tuning in this year. I think GH's team have only lost four in the last 40-odd tests.

    (Excluding the wknd).

  6. I didn't watch the weekend's game either. I was on my bike, enjoying the empty roads. So I've missed most of the losses, as well as the wins.

    Best get used to us losing. This world cup is showing that the game is becoming slightly more of a world game (a good thing). When people think of "football", they think of Brazil. Brazil went 24 years without winning the real World Cup. To win a world cup you've got to win a few important, tough games. Like Brazil, we have a history of losing those sorts of games.

    ps. I'm the "beer O'Clock" Stu, so I am still loitering around here now and then.

  7. richard mcgrath8 Oct 2007, 18:05:00

    The RWC is like the English FA Cup - a knockout tournament. To win the football Premiership in England takes consistency and stamina over about 40 games; to win the FA Cup you only have to win about 6 or 7 games. The ABs played about 40 tests since the last World Cup and won about 80-90% of those games. I rate that more highly than winning or losing the World Cup.

  8. Lindsay, I do not see how mindlessly hiting yourself makes you anymore of a man. Similarly, how does operating one's vocal-cords make one effeminate.

  9. Oh dear. People really have lost their sense of humour.

    When the French boomed out their anthem and then fronted the All Blacks eyeball to eyeball during the haka, you just knew there was going to be a game. Frankly I thought it was a great game after the non-competitive walk-overs, which most Kiwis seem to love.

  10. Sorry. I suck at detecting written sarcasm.

  11. Goodness sake, it was obvious lindsay was being sarcastic!

    What good are comments on rugby from yalnikim who has only watched one game in four years and seems to have the most to say!

    If these figures are correct:
    NZ 70% possession
    France 170 tackles to NZ 40 tackles

    ...then it means we were playing like zombies.
    Normally those figures would imply eventual domination via the opposition's fatigue at least.
    That we couldn't even take advatage of that shows awful on-field leadership, lack of pressure game mindset, and the disadvantage of using players out of position who lack the cunning of their natural position. Perhaps, the pressure showed the instability of the rotation ssytem which failed to developed robust combinations.

  12. I would like to explain why we lost and what we must do for the next cup to ensure we do not loose again.

    This is not making excuses - it is applying science – the science of perception under stress.

    To begin with, if you were a racing car driver do you believe you could drive "in the zone" if just before the race they switched the gear box to the other side of your car?

    It has to do with the science of perception and being “in form” and “in the zone”. The French were very smart and took a scientific approach to this game and outsmarted us because we don't tend to think like this.

    I knew what was happening from about ten minutes into the game when I was watching the match “out of the corner of my eye” which is how players actually “see” what is going on around them. Out of the corner of my eye I kept on thinking the French were the All Blacks and had to mentally switch the teams round. It was hard to “instinctively” read the game when the All Blacks were not in black and looked more like the Gary Glitter Band.

    Sports science tells us that top athletes in any sport need to be “in form” or “in the zone” if they are to achieve their best. "Being in form "or "in the zone" means your decisions are instinctive and do not demand conscious or analytical thought. If someone is hurling a cricket ball at you you do not have time to think about it, and when batsmen are “in the zone” they feel as though they are watching someone else play the shots.

    The All Blacks are the only team named after the colour they wear and research shows that colour cues are critical in our perceptions of events. (Have you heard of the famous "black gorilla" experiment were whole groups of people fail to see a person in a gorilla suit dancing round in the middle of a white clad basket ball team because they have been told to count the passes between the white players?)

    So when the All Black backs tried to get "into the zone" they found there were no All Blacks playing round them - only a bunch from the Gary Glitter Band.
    Every pass would have needed some thought about who the hell was standing there – rather than an instinctive response.
    That is why every back played “on his own” – his instincts were telling him he was alone on the park.

    They looked as though they were not used to playing together because they were playing with strangers in fancy dress.

    We never sawthe back line play "in the zone" - they were wooden because they were having to think before every move.

    We should wonder why the French decided to darken their uniform and then demand the All Blacks wear silver.

    If we want the team to be "in form" and and the individual players to be "in the zone" at the next World Cup we need to ensure that every team recognises the right of the All Blacks to wear Black.

    Otherwise the All Blacks will look like the Gary Glitter Band and the players will never get “in the zone” and will lose – again and again.

  13. Sorry Owen but the ABs have played and won in that colour before.

    We have no more "right" to play in black than the Scots have to play in Dark Blue when we play them or the Italians in light blue when they play the french.

    That is just arrogant thinking that compounds the bigger failure - our inability to adapt.

    The All Blacks are not the only team to be named after the colour they play in - "Les Bleus" France, Red Dragons Wales are two others. The All Blacks is a nickname not the national team name, whcih is New Zealand.



1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.