Ben Smith Robbie Deans: Great players embrace the anxiety, and use it to face the challenge

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The All Blacks team to play Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

OPINION: One of the most common questions coaches get asked is what do the players think about in the lead-up to crucial games, and what is going through their heads as they run out the tunnel?

It’s a critical ingredient in any high pressure situation. It is also why at this stage of the Rugby World Cup, with all the planning and preparations basically complete, the mental game moves to front and centre.

Ben Smith What is Kieran Read thinking when he leads the All Blacks down the tunnel?

PHIL WALTER/GETTY

What is Kieran Read thinking when he leads the All Blacks down the tunnel?

To observe champion players such as Richie McCaw or Dan Carter in the final moments before kick-off is to see a player in a calm but focused state of excitement.

It’s to see composure where anxieties exist, but are harnessed and applied for good against the challenge.

To understand what makes the great players tick is to understand why they expose themselves to potential failure in front of a massive global audience.

What does the game offer them in return that encourages them to put it all on the line? 

It is the ultimate team game. It can earth you quickly, yet often builds character.

It provides a great preparation for life, as players learn that they are only as good as the company they keep, and they need good people around them.

No-one can survive

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