How might you imagine the All Blacks celebrate a momentous victory? Why, by playing a Kenny Rogers classic on the bus back to the hotel, of course!
Most teams and players will have their rituals and superstitions before games. Perhaps the weirdest one we know of is the vomit - "feed the bear!" - shadow boxing pre-match routine of former Tottenham player Stuart Nethercott. But interestingly, the New Zealand rugby team also have a unique and interesting post-victory routine, according to Tony Veitch of the New Zealand Herald, who got a behind-the-scenes peek at the All Blacks' matchday activities:
When the All Blacks win a test match, only one song can be played as the team leaves the ground and arrives at the hotel.
That song is The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.
Word has it Sir Graham Henry first espoused the virtues of this classic to celebrate victory. In Ted (Henry)'s words, he wanted a song for all generations, a true classic sing-along.
What makes this part of modern All Black folklore all the more interesting is the boys in charge of the 'bus music', which includes (fly-half) Damian McKenzie, must ensure the timing of the song and the arrival of the bus is bang on. So if they are approaching the team hotel and The Gambler has not reached its crescendo, the bus driver is instructed to slow down. There can be no mistakes.
Compare that to the bus ride to the ground. Dead silence, no talking, game faces on. As one All Black described it to me, "it's like heading to a funeral".
It's strange imagining Kieran Read et al crooning along with Kenny's gentle "You've got to know when to hold 'em" after being involved in an absolute war with, say, Australia, but it's pretty funny as well that the bus driver actually has to slow down to accommodate this unique ritual.
The interesting piece also contains a list of quirky facts about happenings within the All Blacks camp. One of these is a strange routine followed by scrum-half TJ Perenara:
Not only is "Thomas"- yes TJ does have a first name - freakishly clean in his hotel room, he's also a stickler for how he fronts up in All Black gear. You might be aware every player's initials are sewn into their clothing, to make washing day bearable. But when it comes to his socks, TJ cannot play in two bearing the letter L, or two with Rs on them. Quite simply, TJ must have one left sock and one right, otherwise outright panic sets in.
Bizarre. Meanwhile, here's Kenny:
(New Zealand Herald)