Late last night I was lying in bed solving the world’s problems within the confines of my room.

I often do that, trying to establish connections between cause and effect, trying to decipher people’s actions, understand their motives. You see, I have always held the firm belief that all behaviour is communication; that in order to understand people you need to look beneath the veneer of their actions.

Last night there was a wealth of material to include within his mornings blog, but like my sleepy dreams it had all evaporated by morning. But I do remember one thing:

With the Rugby World cup being played later this year, I remember thinking about the rugby teams I respect and those that I don’t. I then delved into why I liked some teams and disliked others. The answer came reasonably quickly. After having wonderful experiences of playing rugby in New Zealand, Australia, England, France, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, I believe I understand a little of the nature of international game of Rugby.

I’ve played with and against players from all of the above Nations and others from South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, from the United States to France.  I’ve played with and against All Blacks from Billy Bush, Murray Mexted to Zin Zan Brook and Michael Jones, Andrew Donald, along with numerous others. I’ve played with incredibly talented, incredibly fast and strong players, most of which had far superior skills than me. My rugby journey has been blessed indeed.

Rugby is a sport where you play for 90 min’s most weeks and train for 3 hours, sometimes four and a half. After a match you can reasonably expect to socialise for another 3 hours. This does not include the times you are working on individual skills, topping upon positional conditioning, or training in the gym, most likely with a team mate or two. So that leaves a lot of time to get to know your team/club mates. And this is where you can really understand player motivations, understand what drives them and how they view the rugby world.

In playing competitive rugby from the age of five to forty it is obvious I enjoy rugby, the game itself and the camaraderie off the field. But the two places I least enjoyed my rugby was in Australia and England. Here are the reasons why?

Australia – super competitive, super talented, high levels of self-belief, they also play their rugby hard (I’ve been stitched up more in Australia than anywhere else). These are all fantastic rugby qualities. As mentioned previously most rugby happens off the pitch, either training or socialising, and this is where I didn’t enjoy my rugby in Australia. Constant chipping, constant Kiwi bashing, constant dig’s wear you down eventually. I’m a quiet guy, I love rugby and a beer, I have no interest in running people, or peoples down after the game. The same can’t be said for my experiences with Team mates and opposition players in Australia.

England – I liked my team mates and I loved the rugby we played (15 man oriented), very much so! We had a healthy blend of Frenchmen, South Africans, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Kiwi’s, Aussies, an Argentine (on occasions) and a Welsh Coach. Of course we had more than a fair sprinkling of Englishmen. Our team was slightly different than most, we weren’t constrained within the bounds of the class system that still sleeps and seeps within the English club system. Rugby in England is still a class based sport and until this shackle is broken, it is my view that England will never fulfill the potential of being the world’s largest Rugby Union.

Country No. of Clubs Registered players
Argentina 420 102790
Australia 767 42,100
Czech Republic 22 5382
England 1809 1990988
Fiji 490 36030
France 1798 360847
Ireland 221 153080
Italy 784 66176
Netherlands 82 8869
New Zealand 600 146893
Samoa 140 23372
Scotland 251 38500
South Africa 1526 651146
Tonga 82 6891
United States 2588 88151
Wales 250 50557

English players are different from their Australian counter parts in the support of their National Teams. Englishmen are passionate – super passionate and I respect that – but I what I don’t and didn’t like is their air of the superiority (a remnant of the class system?)  and the regular playing of the colonial card (oh- so many times!)

Aussies possess self-belief and arrogance, they are born fighters – amazing qualities I respect. But respect is not a one way street. In their self-belief, within their passion, they never seem to consider, recognise or respect anyone else, there is little in self-obsession worth respecting.

handshake respect earn it

Good luck to all teams in the RWC and go the All Blacks.

Kia Ora

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