Just less than a year ago England lost a rugby match to the All Blacks and I wrote that Maro Itoje [wasn’t] world class, yet. So I’m delighted to join the throng of those hailing him as he has scaled those heights during this World Cup. He, and the team, have matured, and beaten the All Blacks by delivering what most agree was one of, if not the, best performances on a rugby pitch.
Whereas I berated him for giving away penalties in 2018 now he stays on the right side of the referee and England’s penalty count was only 6, about half that of the usually miserly All Blacks. Sir Clive Woodward talked to the 2003 Cup winning (just saying!) team about T CUP, Thinking Clearly Under Pressure; this team E CUP, Execute Clearly Under Pressure.
It’s hard to stay calm in an emotional atmosphere, whether on the pitch or in a boardroom. The whole England team had the right mind-set throughout the match – don’t over-celebrate triumphs and don’t complain when things go against you. After a second disallowed try, which in the view of several more qualified than me was a legitimate score, all Owen Farrell asked was clarification of the reason, and trotted back to carry on. Neither mental nor physical energy was spent needlessly and all could be focussed on the task – smothering and knocking back their opponents, then taking the ball forward.
This state of mind didn’t happen overnight. I noted last year that Itoje was only one of a number of England players who could give away penalties, but their performance in this tournament has been first class. They have reflected on what needs to be done to be better, and over the 4 years since the debacle of the last World Cup, they have trained themselves in what it takes to win. There have been plenty of setbacks, most notably in the 6 Nations of 2018 when they slumped to fifth, and questions were asked about the team and the management. But they kept going, made adjustments and have succeeded, whatever the outcome in the Final.
Whatever our field of performance – sport, business, the arts – we need three things:
- Skills. These are basically inherent but need practice and encouragement;
- Determination. The winners are almost invariably those who work harder than their competitors;
- Wisdom. How our actions are directed and how they interact with others determines whether we have wasted a great deal of effort or accomplished something.
If we can access these entirely by ourselves we are truly gifted. More often than not we need coaching in our skills and mentoring in how to use them. Steve Borthwick has studied line-outs to the extent that Maro “awarded” him 2 PhDs! Their work together resulted in an almost faultless England line out (just the one gift to the opposition) whereas England stole the New Zealand throw in twice and turned over two other mauls from their line-outs.
If you’d prefer to build a business than play rugby with Maro Itoje then we’re here to guide you.