Cardiff was not the place to be if you were a supporter of St George after the crushing of England’s Grand slam ambitions by a rampant Welsh team. The Millennium Stadium is a fantastic cauldron of fervour and noise, and according to past players, even the journey to and from the stadium is one not to be cherished when observed from the window of the team coach.
Naturally the inquest has begun, with a host of opinions from pundits, players, ex players and the public itself. Reading Monday’s Sport Telegraph, guest columnist Chris Robshaw’s, thoughts were a must read.
The England captain has had a fine series and may yet be crowned as the man who leads the Lions in Australia, but his opening paragraph may just have illustrated the difference in experience between the two teams that for many was the reason for the gulf in class between Wales and England, during the 80 minutes of the brutal encounter, bringing he curtain down on England’s Six Nations campaign.
“I gathered the boys together in a huddle at the final whistle and told them to remember the hurt they were feeling that moment”
A little earlier in the same paper is the report on Manchester United’s victory over Reading that has virtually guaranteed the Premier League title will be heading west across the city from the Etihad to Old Trafford. Apparently Sir Alex Ferguson gathered his players together at the culmination of last season, when City snatched the title from United in the final seconds, and told them to ‘never allow yourselves to be in this position again’
There’s a subtle psychological difference here, well illustrated by Humphrey Walters, pivotal figure in Sir Clive Woodward’s backroom team that delivered a World Cup for England in 2003. Humphrey, who competed in the BT Global Challenge deploys a mantra that is from sailing but has widespread connotation across any sport and indeed business. ‘Always focus on the next wave, leave everything on the wave behind’.
And there is the difference. Chris Robshaw made his international debut just 4 years ago. Sir Alex has been gathering titles for 26 years. Chris unfortunately is asking his players to ‘remember’ and probably ‘feel’ the hurt. Understandable and not surprising. What must happen now is that Chris and his team must remember that stunning win over the All Blacks. How that felt and just how much it re-vitalised his team.
Comparing Robshaw’s reaction to that of Sir Alex Ferguson, indicates to me, that Sir Alex was already focusing on the next wave. The England captain was still on the wave behind. Look forward Chris, just like your coach. Stuart Lancaster is already demonstrating his grasp of the subtle nuances of the psychology of sport, “When I look back and try and put some perspective on it, the four wins and the New Zealand game, there is still an upward curve.”
Chris Robshaw will recover and so will England. They will be a force in the 2015 World Cup. A word or two from Sir Alex might help them along the way.