All Blacks' inner voice instills winning mantra

Richie McCaw and Steve Hansen (Getty Images)
Richie McCaw and Steve Hansen (Getty Images)

Cardiff - Mind-master Gilbert Enoka has been instilling confidence and restraining egos in the All Blacks for 200 Tests and has a key World Cup mission ahead.

While praise for the All Blacks' six-year run as world number one is usually directed at coach Steve Hansen and skipper Richie McCaw, the players give thanks behind the scenes to "mental skills coach" Enoka.

"He makes a big impact," veteran centre Conrad Smith said ahead of New Zealand's 43-10 win over Georgia in Cardiff on Friday -- Enoka's double century milestone.

"It's almost always behind the scenes, creating the culture, getting the guys ready for a game and guys that aren't playing helping them how they can contribute to the team."

The sports psychologist was brought into the side in 2000 by then-coach Wayne Smith to work with players individually on dealing with the demands off and on the field.

Enoka is a former New Zealand volleyball international who became a school teacher with a mania for combating the mental pressure of sport.

He has called psychology the "Ugly Duckling" of sports sciences.

But many of the All Blacks' greatest victories since Enoka joined have been attributed to him, including the tense 8-7 win over France in the 2011 World Cup final.

Lock Brad Thorn recognised Enoka's ability to get the players up to meet the fanatical expectations of a home crowd as being influential in that outcome.

Hansen describes the Enoka as "a very important cog" in an All Blacks machine that knows how to win when the chips are down.

Ryan Crotty's try at the death to break Irish hearts in Dublin three years is testament to Enoka's "never give up" mantra.

So too is the match-winning conversion on full-time by Colin Slade who was able to instantly steady himself after missing a crucial line kick minutes earlier.

In Johannesburg three months ago, a late try by McCaw and a penalty by Lima Sopoaga lifted the All Blacks to a 27-20 victory over South Africa.

Smith said Enoka's talent of tapping into the core of each player was essential.

"He'll mean different things to different guys, at different stages of your career, your background. He can simplify the game and make you feel fresh and ready for the challenge of pulling on the All Blacks jersey."

There is no room for egos in the culture created by Enoka and there are a number of one-Test All Blacks who are testament to that.

But for players who have established themselves in the black jersey, they remain part of Enoka's All Blacks family, said fullback Israel Dagg who was left out of the World Cup squad.

He said Enoka had kept in touch from the United Kingdom with him and others who missed the cut including wing Cory Jane and scrum-half Andy Ellis.

"It's a big family and we just want the guys to do well. Gilbert's been sending emails about what has been going on in the camp, so we're still a part of it.

"It makes you still feel involved."

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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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