The reason I love rugby is because it is passion personified. Raw passion that is then shaped and honed so that it inspires a winning performance every time. Like so many compelling sports, rugby thrives on paradox: fusing extraordinary individual talents into a seamless whole. Not easy. Transforming rugged individualists into a family that looks after one another, acts in unison and is willing to pass the ball even when every nerve calls out to run, has got to be one of the great people challenges. My friend Murray Mexted, a 34-test All Black legend and one of the greatest players ever to wear the number 8 jersey, has never been shy about challenges. For proof simply look to the International Rugby Association of New Zealand (IRANZ).
Mex set up this world-class training program around six years ago and today it is a leader in creating top-performing players. To be part of one of Mex’s academies for coaches and players is to be dropped into a furnace of high expectations, passionate encouragement, more rugby knowledge than any one person could handle, and access to rugby legends from the past and present. IRANZ demonstrates yet again how devoted individual All Blacks are to the game and its future. If there is a senior player who has refused to help out at a Mexted course, Mex has never mentioned it to me. The blood truly runs black and runs forever.
One of the features of Mex’s approach is to keep the training specific to positions. You want to be next year’s best first-five eight? Then you need training with Grant Fox. At IRANZ, Grant Fox or one of the other great All Black first-fives is who you’re likely to get. It’s all about focus. Focus on position, on achievement and on commitment to playing the game at its highest level.
I’ll have more to say soon about Mex and how I believe IRANZ is helping to shape the future of rugby.