It’s been a turbulent four years for the All Blacks. After losing the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final to England, the pandemic hit and historic losses against the likes of Argentina and Ireland followed.
While the side appears to be coming out of that hole, having won ten of their last 11 games, the pain of losing in the black jersey is an experience unlike any other in the sport.
That pain has its place for some players. Soon after arriving in London, Ardie Savea said the memory of losing the 2019 semi-final was “stored” in his mind, adding “It’s good” to emphasise the motivation found in the loss.
Two-time champion Richie McCaw has previously mentioned the 2007 Rugby World Cup as key to the 2011 and 2015 wins.
But a man who featured alongside McCaw in those championship runs says losses come with “mental baggage” that needs to be left behind if this All Blacks team are to reach their potential at the World Cup.
“For this team, I think they just need to get rid of the mental baggage that they’ve had in the last couple of years but also 2021, that November test,” Jerome Kaino said on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“But I remember the majority of the team in 2011 hadn’t experienced 2007 or 2003, so we didn’t have that baggage, those bad memories. Us young guys, we just wanted to get out there and play.
“I think the challenge for the guys who had experienced 2007 was to mentally switch off those memories and just lead the team. I think Richie (McCaw) and Kev (Mealamu) and the guys who were there, they led the team really well.”
That November 2021 test Kaino referred to was a 40-25 victory for the French over the All Blacks in Paris. That match was the last time the two teams squared off.
The opening match of the World Cup will see the two foes clash horns yet again in front of a packed Stade de France.
Finding a balance between learning from the past and focusing on the present is a challenge for any athlete and will go a long way to determining the All Blacks’ success over the next two months.
It’s a message Kaino may have delivered to today’s team personally as he was in camp with the team last week.
Reporting on where the team were at, the 83-Test All Black shared how positive the environment felt.