Random rugby rituals

Our survey says… don’t wash your socks!

From International Rugby News, March 2007

Former All Black wing Jonah Lomu used to shave his head on the day of a match. England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson always wears the same T-shirt under his England shirt while Italy’s Marco Bortolami shares a special secret handshake with Aaron Persico before each international.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the pre-match ritual. And rugby union is full of players who like to don their lucky underpants and refuse to wash ‘winning’ socks, according to research carried out by Guinness.

The survey conducted by the sponsors of the Premiership revealed that 62 per cent of rugby players - at all levels of the game - felt a ritualistic pre-match routine was crucial to their success on the pitch.

The study looked at superstitions and rituals in rugby, cricket and football. And it was rugby players who were deemed to be most in need of a regular pre-match routine.

Gloucester’s England centre Mike Tindall said: “For a number of years after my England debut, I had a couple of rituals that I’d stick to religiously, such as changing in the far-left corner of the locker room or trying to be last out of the tunnel. Some of the lads found it difficult to understand but you always respect your team-mate’s rituals; it gives you a psychological advantage over the opposition. The only ritual I partake in now is when England visit Ireland and we have a celebratory pint of Guinness after the game.”

Former England international Austin Healey said: “It’s funny, you don’t really think about it at the time but I relied on a few rituals to help me focus before each game – one of which was wearing a lucky pair of socks under my team socks in every game.”

According to the research, 23 per cent of rugby players will strap up an age-old injury, even though it had long since cleared up. And 41 percent said they regularly belted out a pre-match team song in the changing rooms.

While cricketers like to wear certain items of clothing and footballers prefer to eat and drink the same things before each game, rugby players are most likely to carry out a specific task while running onto the pitch. A total of 13 percent suggested touching the ceiling while leaving the tunnel or putting the mouthguard in when crossing the line onto the pitch was crucial to their performance.

Research shows that when a pre-match ritual is linked to success, rugby players are prone to stick with it. And vice versa - if doing something before a game results in a bad incident on the pitch, it is never repeated.
Healey confirmed this was the case after he famously shared popcorn with three team-mates during his Leicester Tigers days. The players were enjoying the club’s regular pre-match visit to the cinema, but all three men who shared Healey’s popcorn found themselves struck down by injury the following day.

“There was no evidence to show it was the reason but I certainly never shared my popcorn with my team-mates after that,” Healey confirmed.

The pre-match rituals conducted by rugby players across the land are extremely varied.

When questioned, a 35-year-old amateur player in south-east England, replied: “Whoever was man of the match for our last game chooses something that we all have to wear, within reason, for the duration of the match.”

A player from the West Midlands added: “No matter who I have played for I always wear lucky socks under my match socks.”

Other sportsmen had to put their shin pads on in the toilet, tie the laces in their right boot first and get dressed with clothing on the left side before anything else.

In the world of rugby, of course, routines are not solely limited to the pre-game, as Hugh McHardy, of Esher Rugby Club, explained: “We have had lots of players come and go over the years and seen lots of bizarre rituals. I would say though, probably the most strictly adhered to ritual in this country for sportsmen and women, and spectators alike, is that of heading down the pub after a match to enjoy a pint!”

Research certainly backs up that statement as 78 per cent of rugby players were found to enjoy a post-match pint.

Share/Bookmark this :

Comments are closed.