'Join the Pack' call drives Baby Blacks on

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 16 June 2010
 'Join the Pack' call drives Baby Blacks on
New Zealand's players 'Join the Pack' on Keep Rugby Clean Day - Photo: Martin Seras Lima/IRB

Teams having phrases or motivating words is nothing new in international sport, but New Zealand prop Willie Ioane has revealed the secret weapon that he hopes will secure the Baby Blacks a third successive IRB Junior World Championship title.

The philosophy is a simple but effective one and Ioane, the only member of last year's winning side eligible to play in Argentina this month, admits it has helped the squad to come together as one both on and off the pitch.

"We've got this thing called the Wolf Pack and our saying is the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is his pack. We've got like a mini saying 'Join the Pack'," revealed the Manawatu prop.

Ioane explained that before leaving for the Litoral region of Argentina, the squad read the book The Ultimate Gift, which through its different chapters refers to the gift of family.

A family

"You don't need to be related through blood to be a family," explained Ioane. "So if you compare that to our team, it's just through love and from our team and from there even when we set our plays on the field if you compare it to the wolf, he doesn't go hunt as one, he goes as a pack.

"I think that's the ultimate thing as how we join together and we didn't have that much time back in Auckland to prepare, but it's just through our bonding that brought us together and gelled us together that we're able to get as far as we have so far.

"Someone always, always has your back. If one of the boys are down, like when one of the boys was sent back because of injury, all the boys were there, we all came together and wished him well and hopefully he gets better soon. That's why you know in the game against Wales, we did it for him. The tightness between us, it's bonding us together."

The philosophy is not only used as a tool to foster the unity among the 26-man squad off the field but also as a motivation during matches, a phrase to pick a teammate up after a missed tackle or to turn around a difficult situation in a match.

'Join the Pack'

"In the case that we have say one bad scrum then it just takes one person to say 'Join the Pack' and from there we all know what it means, so we just have got to lift our performance. We know that we've got the brothers out there to support us and from there we should be all right.

"It's on and off the field as well. Even if someone misses a tackle we don't just fully tell them 'oh come on', it's kind of like a confidence speech. So instead of putting them down we go 'Join the Pack' … you know, hard luck but you know we're there to support you. It's just that brothers call."

The 20-year-old admits he was "like a kid in a candy store" when he was presented with his winners' medal in Tokyo last year following New Zealand's 44-28 defeat of England and could take away Zac Guildford's mantle as the only player to win two JWC titles.

"It was just like gold to be honest," Ioane said of that success. "I was like a kid in a candy store. It was a real privilege and honour to play in that final and good result to come out champions at the end, just the memorable moments you'll never forget, so hopefully we can come away again with it again this year."

Physical test awaits

Before Ioane and the Baby Blacks can dream of being crowned champions though, they have to overcome the challenge of South Africa, a side harbouring ambitions of a first Junior World Championship final appearance.

"It's going to be a big, physical game like always and like all the other South African teams they're just going to try and out muscle us and just try and give a head clash and you know the boys are all ready for that, the physical match and we've just got to front up and see how it goes.

"I enjoy the physical stuff and the scrums and that, you've just got to get out there and give it all. Hopefully just walk off knowing that you've given it your best and hope that the coach is happy with your performance and especially your team mates as well .

"So, just do your best and everything should gel together."