It was the chance of a lifetime. Hosts of the Rugby World Cup. A semi-final against a beatable England. Confidence high after beating the All-Blacks. Surely France would break through their stop situation and win the World Cup? Or at least make the final?
No – this was a team that could not break free of the shackles. The shackles of fear of failure. A team that went against it’s DNA. The code by which it tries to play the game.
The French got sucked into England’s way of playing. Dragged down. As if playing a game of fear. The fear of losing was stronger than the desire to win.
They did not have the mental strength to dictate the play. To say, we are going to play the French way. Moving the ball. Setting runners free. Breaking with pace and flair. Lifting the crowd. That would have been daring. Champions and winners are not the same as everyone else. They set the tone. Set the standard. It means being different. And it takes courage to be different.
It means having a clear and precise mentality about what you want to do and how you are going to do it. In the game of fear, France became mindless. As if hypnotised by England’s magnetic power. England set a tone by which they wanted the game to be played. And France found themselves playing by England’s rules, not their own.
This was not a team that had the mentality of champions. The fear of failure took care of that. Expectancy + Pressure – Freedom of Expression = Underperformance.