"Oval Rising". Arriving in Japan at the end of September, I had many dreams but only one goal, to get as close as possible to Mount Fuji and take the time to observe its unique silhouette. See it at sunrise and in the last rays of the sun, understand the fascination it causes. In the face of goals, my sports education separates behaviors into two distinct paths, those that we want to achieve and those we try to achieve. I was clearly in the second case, I thought of my stay around excursions on the surrounding mountains to enjoy the best views of the sacred volcano, but I did not even see it. He preferred to spend the month of October in the clouds, surely jealous eyes turned to the oval.
After a week of scrutinizing a possible furtive appearance, I returned to Tokyo to see the All Blacks match against Namibia, and I slammed. To see the ball flying in the hands of virtuoso players, geniuses of this sport. To vibrate by observing what the cameras do not capture. The details of the shadow, the application of the sidelines and the language of the bodies. I realized that rugby at a very high level was taking a new direction. Because the All Blacks live in anticipation, it is a team that plays in the future. In perpetual reinvention, they lead the game and give a course to global rugby.
Insurance and serenity
In order to push the limits and stay one step ahead, the All Blacks are exploring new ways for performance. We knew the respect of their inheritance, the conviction of the victory and the adhesion body and soul in their systems of play and functioning. We now discover their practice of incomparable collective discipline. No gesture is left to chance. From the players to the water carriers, from the staff in the stands to the healers at the edge of the field. All of their behaviors inspire confidence and serenity.
One example among others, three seconds after scoring a try, the players leave together running towards the middle of the field, in a circle, listening to the captain give the instructions for the next phase. The scope is primarily psychological, we print a strong image to all those present. Starting with the opponent but especially the members of his own team, who send themselves positive and reassuring signals. At the 2015 World Cup already, the All Blacks had chosen to wear only black shoes. To stick to the tunic so respected and show the image of a team that is block.
We can work for something to happen, set up a discipline, organize and plan. But sometimes luck has the last word.
I wanted to see the All Blacks, understand this group that leaves nothing to chance and gets organized to win. I wanted to observe again those gestures, details and behaviors that make them invulnerable.
A golden opportunity came in the semi-final against England. At one hour of kickoff, I climbed the outdoor stairs of Yokohama Stadium surrounded by a sweet madness, amid the black and white waves of supporters. Behind me, a bright orange sun was setting and tinted the ocean with flamboyant buildings. I took the time to look at him, leaning against a balustrade. And for a few seconds, the clouds disappeared, revealing Mount Fuji, immense, majestic, the snowy summit.
I thought then that we can work for something to happen, set up a discipline, organize and plan. But sometimes it's luck that finally has the last word. Eddie Jones, the English coach, does not believe in luck, he is a man of preparation, morbidly scrupulous and rigorous. It leaves no element unresolved, extends its control over all that can be.
So, on the field, an hour later, the strategy of the XV of the Rose did not leave a second of horizon, not an ounce of cleared sky to All Blacks. The demonstration was total, pressure of all the moments, maximum concentration and physical domination. The goal was simple, to plunge the Blacks into intense pressure and deprive them of what makes them unique, speed, territorial control and the maintenance of their discipline.
From the top of the stand, I watched for the first clues of crack in the serenity and discipline of the All Blacks. At the 51e for a minute, on an arbitration decision in favor of the English, one of the healers made a gesture of irritation. Then soon after, the body language changed, players began to put their hands on their hips and lower their heads between the game sequences.e finally, a second-line All Black put a blow to Owen Farrell in a grouping: penalty for England and three points that sealed the English victory.
For the last time at # RWC2019 the @AllBlacks bow to their fans https://t.co/HhUO5F4zia
The World Cups are important markers for rugby, they take stock of past years and announce the direction of the future. The All Blacks have opened important avenues towards a field to explore, collective discipline, the creation of an ethics, a code followed by all the players, on and off the field.
In Japan, my wish and my personal discipline were not to miss any moment of beauty. A World Cup win is like observing Mount Fuji on a hazy sky. A scrupulous preparation, a respected discipline and luck that turns sometimes on the good side.
Aristide Barraud, 30, is a former professional rugby player. Ex-international under 20 years, he has notably played in the Top 14 with the French Stadium before exiling himself in the Italian league.