Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Fear of losing' gave All Blacks an edge, says sports psychologist

Sports psychologist says Ireland no longer want 'gallant loser' tag

Ryan Nugent

Published 21/11/2016 | 02:30

New Zealand's TJ Perenara celebrates victory. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
New Zealand's TJ Perenara celebrates victory. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The fear of losing back-to-back games against Ireland drove the All Blacks to victory in a bruising encounter, it has been claimed.

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After being foiled for the first time in 19 games in Chicago earlier this month, New Zealand made amends with a 21-9 victory over Joe Schmidt's men.

Sports psychologist and former Irish rugby international Stephen McIvor said Ireland's historic victory in Soldier Field showed a lack of desire from the All Blacks. That's something that wasn't evident on Saturday night.

"When we're at our absolute optimum, there's always a greater intensity attached to it," Mr McIvor said.

"So when you look back, there is every chance that 18 successful matches would have sated the hunger from New Zealand and would have allowed them to be a little bit less aroused to execute things."

The defeat to Ireland and the subsequent backlash from media outlets may have led to a fear of defeat that the New Zealand team could not have envisaged repeating.

Fans react during the match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Fans react during the match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Obviously, when fear comes along it's a motivator to drive people and that fear was there for them and they came with that fear," he said.

A defeat it may have been but the famous Lansdowne roar was back. Despite bitter conditions, the stadium could have sold out twice over, with those lucky enough to get a golden ticket making sure their voices were heard.

That was particularly the case when the band of supporters witnessed the crash, bang and thud of the All Blacks into their heroes.

There was a suggestion of dirty tactics from the rugby kingpins, or at least some methods that bent the rules.

All Black duo Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa have both been cited for dangerous tackles and will face disciplinary hearings in the coming days. However, that was swiftly rebuffed by head coach Steve Hansen, who was colder with RTÉ reporter Clare McNamara than the conditions his side had just competed in.

Asked for his thoughts on a couple of robust tackles from his players, he said: "Do you want me tell you we're a dirty side or something? Is that what you're saying?"

South African referee Jaco Peyper was deemed in some Irish quarters as having a worse day than his national side, as the Springboks suffered an embarrassing defeat to Italy for the first time. But Mr Schmidt, being the gentleman he is, could not be pushed into criticising the official.

You might think he was just making sure he didn't come across as a sore loser, but there was a lot more to that than meets the eye, according to Mr McIvor.

The Kiwi was sending a clear message to his Irish warriors that it's up to them to improve again and not worry about the referee, he said.

Now to the Aussies this weekend, with a nation expecting, rather than hoping for a victory.

This all comes down to the change of mindset developed by Ireland over the years and further drilled into them by the Schmidt regime.

Irish Independent

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