Why the All Blacks ditched pre-match team talks
Written by Simon Austin — November 12, 2018
NEW ZEALAND All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says he has not conducted a single pre-match team talk in his seven years in charge.
Since taking over in December 2011, Hansen has amassed one of the greatest coaching records in the history of sport. He led the All Blacks to victory in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has an incredible 89% winning record.
However, rousing pre-match and half-time team talks are not part of his strategy. His entire philosophy is about leaving the players to make decisions for themselves.
"We've taken the attitude that if you have to do a team talk on the Saturday then it's too late," Hansen told the New Zealand Herald.
"You get plenty of opportunity as coach to get in-front of the players through the whole week. It's about preparation, clarity and then just getting out there and doing it.
"These guys don't need to be motivated they're self-motivated and if they're not self-motivated then they don't make the team.
“You're talking about a different race of people. Each environment is different and I'm not saying what we do is right for everybody.
"We agree early in the week on what messages are going to be important and quietly go about delivering them in our own way. You get down to the business end of the week and you start handing complete control over to the people who are going to play the game.
"They're the guys who have to make the big decisions under pressure. The job of the management and the coaching crew is to create an environment where they can do that.
"You get to game day and it's not so much about being motivated it's making sure people are okay in themselves. It might be a quiet word to an individual but you certainly don't have to do a rah rah speech – not to our group anyway."
Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga told Hansen’s predecessor, Sir Graham Henry, that pre-match team talks were rather meaningless, so 'Ted’, as Henry was known, agreed to stop doing them.
“That's why Ted stopped because we came to the realisation that we don't need them,” Hansen remembered. “They [the players] need to trust you and you need to trust them.
"If you're going to ask people to do things they have to feel like they own them and then they'll give it everything they've got.”
Hansen, 59, also said he does not give half-time team talks, again relying on the players to bring solutions to the table.
During the first few minutes of the interval, players grab a drink and talk amongst themselves. They then break into backs and forwards while the coaches ask them questions such as “what are you seeing, what are you doing?”
Hansen may show one video clip with a short accompanying message before sending the players out.
Under Hansen, the All Blacks have had a reputation for being excellent in the second half, as evidenced against England last Saturday, when they turned a 15-10 deficit into a 16-15 win.