Think Rugby is all braun, not-so-much brain? Think again.

The current clash of countries playing in the Rugby World Cup 2011 has caused much upset: the Aussies lost to the Irish, Wales gave South Africa a run for their money and Argentina put England on their guard.

The pressure on these young athletes is unimaginable for us, but it is imperative that these players understand stress management to become professionals in their sport.

If their brains don’t feel the healthy stress, then effectively their bodies aren’t clocking-in for work: on-field butterflies and adrenaline-fueled “dead legs” need to be channelled into a win. To regard them as positives separates them from an amateur player.

However, off-field, in the heat of the multi-million-dollar, multi-million-eyeball contests, it’s the chat over the water-coolers which can cause the biggest psych-outs.

National sports media can be known to go to town on visiting countries’ teams to create heat, tension and general collusion amongst the home team, with the ill-effects of that of course intending to lie somehere on the neigbouring team’s shoulders.

Criticism, nit-picking, and comparisons all create a heavy burden of expectation for players, raising the fair question: are the countries, and the fans in those countries, responsible for the players’ attitudes, or are the players themselves responsible only?

For football fans, the benefit of the game lies in the experience of watching your team, says Welsh commentator Derrick Brockway. For him and his national team it’s the values of rugby which are important for the brain – of comradery and shared emotions, and watching the game together with his friends that makes the game what it is.

Thanks to Chris Corcoran on BBC Wales4 for sparking these thoughts. Listen to his full podcast at  www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01425tv.

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