by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
World Cups are never dull, the media make sure of that, thousands of people looking for a story, on or off the field, especially this week when 12 teams have returned home and the remaining 8 start their preparations for next weekend. This is when the Rugby World Cup suffers its first hangover, the party is still going on, its all going to build to a massive final (in three weeks time), but everyone seems to have gone home.
This is a challenge for the organizers, the teams will no longer play during the midweek, so the week is spent building up for the weekend games and selling tickets. During the pool games Rugby World Cup benefitted from over 6,000 volunteers across the Country. These were bankers and truck drivers, accountants and shop keepers, who took time from their work to drive cars, host teams and generally help. They all worked specific shifts for no compensation other than bright turquoise coats and polo shirts, they were so proud, so friendly and a credit to New Zealand. I always made a point of asking them about their lives, in fact one driver was the PA to the Deputy Prime Minister - can you imagine Joe Biden's PA pulling on a turquoise jacket and giving me a ride from the airport!
Talking of the government, they have a significant interest in this event, they will be responsible for about two thirds of the losses (around $25m NZ). I would assume that's a pretty shrewd investment for a Country who are crazy about rugby, and a Government with an election around the corner. The economic impact must be over $100m. As for Prime Minister John Key, I am a pretty big fan after meeting him on three occasions in New Zealand during my visit. I don't know many political leaders, but he is an impressive man.
So the dynamics of the event have changed, the big guns are left to fight it out, and it will become increasingly tense. In some ways, I think that the winning team is the team who can keep their team spirit intact and their focus on the prize for the next three weeks. It's a long time away from home for seven of the teams, mentally an advantage for New Zealand, but they have other pressure to contend with like - being favorites!
So, matters off the field can have a huge impact on the performance of the teams. It will be interesting to see how mentally strong these teams are as they approach the final stages. There's more to wining the World Cup than many people understand, its a physical and mental marathon, and only the very best make the final four and usually they come from the top four ranked teams in the World who are currently, New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa. Its a time when the psychology, the mental toughness and team dynamics forged over time come into play.
Outside the top four are Argentina, Ireland, Wales and France....can they break this mould, are they mentally strong enough? Let me know who you think will win - and why?
I feel very sorry for Dan Carter, a groin injury ruling him out of playing any further part in this years Rugby World Cup - a cruel injury indeed. Dan Carter is probably the best Number 10 that ever played the game, the complete player. I read a great story about him last week in New Zealand. At the age of 8 his father built him some rugby posts in the back yard to practice his kicking - 10,000 hours to develop those skills - you Rookie Rugby players out there, keep practicing those skills! Thanks Dan for being such a fantastic role model for players across the globe.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
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