A leading mental performance coach says World Rugby's ban on players writing personal messages on their wrist tape could adversely affect their on-field performance.

David Niethe, who over the past 20 years has worked with some of New Zealand's leading sports stars, including Lydia Ko, told the Herald he shared athletes' disappointment in the ban confirmed by World Rugby on Wednesday.

According to Niethe, something as small as a message or a symbol written on a piece of tape could have a major influence on a player's mental game.

"They use it as something that we call an anchor, just something to give them a visual cue as a reminder of their purpose or their mission ... It's a subconscious suggestion that helps elicit the intention of a state," Niethe said.


"Whether it's a word, or a symbol or an image and what it can basically do is help anchor [them] into a state ... It stimulates you to get into a zone that changes your psychology."

The decision emerged yesterday via social media with players set to be fined $1,000 should they continue with the practice.

A number of players, including Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Goss and teammate Niall Williams, expressed their disappointment at the directive while New Zealand Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol revealed he was already working on having it reversed.

Williams, the sister of All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill, wears her daughters' initials on her wrists during every game, said it meant so much to both her and her children.

Niethe said he would back the athletes' fight every step of the way.

"We all have certain things that motivate us to commit to performing at our best," he told the Herald.

"It takes away from player's personal sense of identity."

Amongst players who have regularly written and drawn on their wrist tape are All Black stars Kane Hames, Jerome Kaino and Julian Savea.

Kane Hames. Photo / Getty
Kane Hames. Photo / Getty

Loose forward, Kaino, has always written the words "Mum," "Dad" and "Phil 4:13" with a cross, referencing to the Bible verse which reads "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Niethe said players deserved the right to wear those messages considering the hard work they had put in as athletes and to remind themselves of their commitment.

"We're talking about something so insignificant to concern World Rugby. It's an image of a cross because you have strong Christian values or it's the initials of your children which is a visual cue for you."

"With certain respect to the uniform we're talking about the individual's ability to personalise something for them that helps them get into a state to help them perform at their best," he said.

In a statement World Rugby said the rule was permitted under the International Olympic Committee's terms of participation: "There has been a significant increase in strapping 'art' or 'messages' on the series in recent seasons, which is impossible to police for inappropriate or political statements by the match officials in the short period of time before entering the field in a sevens environment across multiple matches and in multiple languages," said the statement.