Get on the bus, go to the ground, play. Sounds simple enough, only something, for most sports teams at least, is missing.

On game day many All Blacks may not hear directly from their coaches. Remarkably, it has been this way now for the best part of a decade.

Come Saturday, they feel the need for talking is done.

At no point in the sheds while beats play in headphones, strapping is applied; boots strapped on and minds focused does Steve Hansen or his assistants gather the team together to bark instructions.

Advertisement

Their theory is if you're not ready to play a test mid-week, don't bother turning up.

"We've taken the attitude that if you have to do a team talk on the Saturday then it's too late," Hansen explains. "You get plenty of opportunity as coach to get in-front of the players through the whole week.

"It's about preparation, clarity and then just getting out there and doing it."

The All Blacks relax in the dressing room following the international rugby match between Ireland and the New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images,
The All Blacks relax in the dressing room following the international rugby match between Ireland and the New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images,

By this time of the week, as the anticipated showdown with England at Twickenham fast approaches, players know responsibility rests with them and, essentially, them alone.

"These guys don't need to be motivated they're self-motivated and if they're not self-motivated then they don't make the team," Hansen adds, saying he ditched any Al Pacino-like Any Given Sunday pre-match speeches before returning to New Zealand in 2004.

"You're talking about a different race of people. Each environment is different and I'm not saying what we do is right for everybody.

"I haven't done a team talk for a long, long time. I gave up doing them when I was coaching Canterbury then I reintroduced them when I was coaching Wales and then eventually stop doing them there too.

"You get to game day and it's not so much about being motivated it's making sure people are okay in themselves. It might be a quiet word to an individual but you certainly don't have to do a rah rah speech – not to our group anyway."

Advertisement

Tana Umaga, while All Blacks captain, famously told Sir Graham Henry over a coffee his pre-match team talks were rather meaningless and, so, 'Ted' agreed to bin them.

But that's only half the story when it comes to this All Blacks team.

Players of New Zealand after the Rugby test match between Japan and New Zealand at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on November 3, 2018. (Photo by AFLO)
Players of New Zealand after the Rugby test match between Japan and New Zealand at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on November 3, 2018. (Photo by AFLO)

"That had nothing to do with it for me," Hansen says. "That's why Ted stopped because we came to the realisation that we don't need them."

At the heart of the lack of pre-game instruction is Hansen's continued embrace of the dual ownership, shared leadership model rather than the authoritarian approach favoured by so many amateur and professional sports teams globally.

Speaking to the Herald last week, Wayne Smith suggested this aspect, now the backbone of the All Blacks, is changing the rugby world.

These days the All Blacks leadership group, selected on criteria such as supreme fitness and being the best in your position as it is no good having leaders in the stands, drives the team as much as the management.

Throughout the week in regular meetings with coaches, the likes of Kieran Read, Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Ben Smith and others are given platforms to talk, disagree, offer ideas and ultimately commit to a plan.

"They need to trust you and you need to trust them," Hansen says. "If you're going to ask people to do things they have to feel like they own them and then they'll give it everything they've got.

"We agree early in the week on what messages are going to be important and quietly go about delivering them in our own way.

"You get down to the business end of the week and you start handing complete control over to the people who are going to play the game.

"They're the guys who have to make the big decisions under pressure. The job of the management and the coaching crew is to create an environment where they can do that."

This method is, essentially, about creating self-awareness so players can adapt and adjust on the field in the moment.

It also carries through to half time where leading players bring solutions to the table.

During the first few minutes of the half time interval, players grab a drink and talk amongst themselves. They then break into backs and forwards while coaches ask questions along the lines of 'what are you seeing, what are you doing'.

Hansen may then show one video clip with a short accompanying message before sending his men out the door.

No uplifting, inspirational speeches. No Michael Cheika, Des Hasler esque blowups.

And, yet, how many times do we witness the All Blacks accelerate after half time? Depth is not the sole reason.

With inclusive alignment formed well before Saturday, small tweaks can bring large gains. Often it is those in the thick of it best placed to offer remedies.

So while Pacino's stirring "inch by inch" speech gets results in Hollywood, the All Blacks are more than content with their unique model.