Here are our favorite insightful and thought-provoking quotes about teams and teamwork in rugby.
Nobody Is Bigger Than The Team
In some sports, when a great player retires then the team “retires” the jersey. That number isn’t used again.
This doesn’t happen in rugby, even for the greatest of players. Right now, Richie McCaw may the greatest of all time. But the number seven shirt has been passed on.
This is what the man himself had to say.
The number seven jersey is the All Blacks jersey.
You are only there to look after it and make it better if you can.
Then you move on, someone else takes it and does the job.
When Rugby Teams Are Up Against It
Maybe it’s easy to be in a team like the All Blacks that usually win.
But what if you’re in a team that’s up against the odds in most matches?
Here’s Scotland’s Kelly Brown with the right stuff.
We are a side that will always fight and scrap and if a team is going to get anything off us we are going to make them work very, very hard for it.
If you want more motivational sayings, check out our list of inspirational rugby quotes.
Teams Need More Than Talent
Some of the greatest players cheerfully admit that they weren’t the most talented as youngsters playing schoolboy rugby.
Ritchie McCaw says that he wasn’t the best player in his school.
Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll wasn’t an automatic selection for the first XV at school. Yet he went on to be one of the best players of his generation.
This is what Ireland and Lions captain Paul O’Connell told the Lions squad about what he expected from them as a team.
There are so many things we can be better at.
Things that don’t require any talent and have nothing to do with ability: fitness, work ethic, being prepared, being on time, attitude, body language, passion, doing extras.
O’Connell certainly appreciated the guys with prodigious natural talent. But he was far more impressed when they put in the effort for eighty minutes.
Ireland and Lions centre Robbie Henshaw is known for his engine. This is O’Connell on Henshaw:
I love it when class players are workhorses as well.
Is Rugby Still For All Shapes And Sizes?
As the backs get bigger, sometimes it seems that rugby is morphing into a sport where every player looks the same.
But there’s still room for the talented player who isn’t a natural behemoth.
South African winger Cheslin Kolbe is 1.7m or 5’6’’, and is one of the best players in the world. This is what he has to say:
There is a saying that dynamite comes in small packages.
We all have something special we can contribute to our teams.
Remember That Rugby Is A Team Game
What a contrast when we compare Cheslin Kolbe with the late great Jonah Lomu.
When a young Lomu burst onto the scene, he literally blew the opposition away with a combination of size and talent.
There’s an old story from the 1995 World Cup as New Zealand was preparing for the semi-final against England.
This was before Twitter or fan websites. Instead, supporters could send encouraging messages to their teams by fax.
The story goes that the New Zealand management received an anonymous fax with very specific advice for All Blacks running out onto the pitch.
Remember that rugby is a team game.
All 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah.
If you want more laughs, we’ve pulled this one from our list of the funniest rugby quotes.
You Can’t Just Have A Captain
Our article on All Blacks quotes goes through the history of New Zealand’s ups and downs in World Cups.
Back in 1994, the coaches realized that there were problems with the squad culture. Senior players weren’t putting in the effort to support the captain.
They came up with the idea of a leadership group. That has become standard now even in club teams but it was a major innovation back then.
This is how assistant coach Wayne Smith describes it:
We can’t just have a captain stand at the front and everyone else loafing in behind him.
We actually need some accountability and responsibility from the whole team.
If you want more quotes to make players stand up and be counted, check out our list of rugby quotes on leadership.
Are You The Honest Or Dishonest Player?
Is there a more challenging team-building task for a coach than knit together players from four rival countries into a single team? Then take them on tour against the best rugby nations in the Southern Hemisphere?
This is what the Lions coaches try to do every four years. Sometimes it fails miserably (New Zealand 2005).
And sometimes, extraordinary coaches challenge the assembled squad to look at themselves and answer a question.
Assistant coach Jim Telfer delivered this speech to the squad in 1997.
There are two types of rugby players. there are honest ones, and there’s the rest.
The honest player gets up in the morning and looks himself in the mirror, and sets his standard. Sets his stall out, and says I’m going to get better. I’m going to get better. I’m going to get better.
He doesn’t complain about the food, or the beds, or buses, or the referees. Or all these sorts of things.
These are just peripheral things that weak players have always complained about. The dishonest player.
Telfer made other amazing speeches on that Lions tour, as did McGeechan. We’ve got quotes from these tours and more in our list of greatest Lions rugby quotes.
An example of a dishonest player?
When Michael Cheika was coaching Leinster, he took the entire squad on a session of hill runs.
Nobody was spared, from the older senior players down to the academy youngsters.
International winger Shane Horgan was at the tail end of his career, but he was one of the first to finish the route.
Brian O’Driscoll recounts the story in his autobiography (affiliate link).
He looks up and sees one of our academy players struggling on the second hill.
Shaggy [Shane Horgan] has already finished but he offers to go again for another lap.
“Come on”, he says. “One more. I‘ll do it with you.”
His offer is declined. Shaggy tells me about it later and mentally cuts the guy loose: he’s done with us.
This shows the rougher side of a rugby team. If the senior players think you won’t go the extra mile for the team, then you may not have a future with this club.
Finding Your Identity As A Rugby Team
I’ve already mentioned that every team can’t be like the All Blacks. The top teams can go on winning streaks that last several seasons.
England has also had amazing runs where they beat every team in front of them.
But what if your team is mid-table? Of if you’re in a scrap to stay off the bottom?
Here’s the outlook of Scotland’s Jim Hamilton back in 2013 when his team was mid-table in the Six Nations.
We need to look at what we are.
We’re not England. We’re not New Zealand.
We’re Scotland and we’ve got to look at what we can do to win games.
Team Versus Stars
Rugby is a team sport but it’s also in the entertainment game. And the media love stars.
Here is Wales and Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones on the subject.
We’ve got a great team sport, but we harp on about individuals. It’s a bit contradictory.