Sports teams can learn a thing or two from the All Blacks - just ask Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney.

After embracing and adapting the All Blacks culture of the team coming before the individual, Swinney led his team to a National Championship over the heavily favoured University of Alabama on Tuesday.

Like many in America, rugby is not something Swinney is familiar with, and when he met Sir Graham Henry a few years back, he had no idea who the legendary rugby coach was.

Swinney posed for a picture with the World Cup-winning mentor and didn't give the encounter a second thought.

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It wasn't until a copy of James Kerr's Legacy, a book that chronicles the successes of the All Blacks, landed on Swinney's desk that he realised who Henry was and what he did.

"I felt like an idiot," Swinney told 247Sports. "He was like the Tom Landry [iconic former coach of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys] of rugby."

Unfamiliar with rugby until he read Legacy, several of Henry's - and the All Blacks' - methods resonated with Swinney.

The All Blacks' mantra of sweeping the sheds, in particular, was one that stuck with him.

The task which the All Blacks carry out after tests was a reminder that no one person was bigger than the team, and that the players in the present set-up were responsible for continuing the team's legacy - starting fresh every year.

The Clemson Tigers celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship this week. Photo / Getty
The Clemson Tigers celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship this week. Photo / Getty

"They've always done the little things probably better than everybody, and they've focused on their culture and take a lot of pride in that," Swinney said.

Now, when Swinney wants to drive home a point about championship culture, his first point of reference is the All Blacks.

The 49-year-old Swinney has led Clemson to two national titles in the past three years, in 2017 and 2019; losing the 2018 final to Alabama.

Although Swinney doesn't mention the All Blacks on a daily basis, instead showing a motivational video based on the team every month or two, the All Blacks' principles are applied every day.

Legacy

is also made available to anyone who wants to read it, and there's no denying the team culture is shaped around that of the three-time world champions, says defensive end Clelin Ferrell.

"People say our programme is based entirely off the All Blacks organisation," Ferrell told 247Sports.

"I wouldn't say it's as unique as, 'Oh, Dabo just thought about it.' The All Blacks are a player-led team. I feel like it takes that."

Linebacker Tre Lamar says the players didn't need to understand rugby to appreciate what the All Blacks have done over the years, and says he doesn't have to be familiar with the sport to appreciate a winner when he sees one.

"They're dogs," Lamar said.

"They go out there to not beat the other team but beat the standard they set for themselves."