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'Ma'a Nonu looked unbelievable': England's failed motivational video before playing All Blacks

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Former England international James Haskell has recalled how former coach Martin Johnson’s motivational methods went pear-shaped on two occasions against the All Blacks.


After England’s 2007 World Cup final appearance, the former England captain took over the head coaching role from 2008 to 2011 and in his first season as head coach completed a two-Test tour of New Zealand.

Speaking on RugbyPass’ The Offload podcast, Haskell recalled how one video the management team showed them backfired after they failed to include highlights of any England players and instead ended up showing the team how good the All Blacks were.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

“They quite liked the motivational video, back in the day,” Haskell recalled of his early years in the England team.

“As you lads can know, it can go horribly wrong, the motivational video.

“They thought it was a good idea, the first one was remixed to the 300 [movie], with “hold the line”, and they put into it Gerard Butler going “hold!” and then it was Ma’a Nonu sidestepping through everyone.

“And it was really weird because it was like “hold the line” and Ma’a Nonu, but Ma’a Nonu looked unbelievable.


“I came out of it and was like ‘f***, New Zealand are amazing’, there wasn’t any clips of us.

“When they starting playing it, Joe Worsley just fell on the floor burst into hysterical laughing. The roar went up.

“They were in the other room going ‘right lads we’ve motivated them, they’ll be so ready for it’.

“They heard us laughing and the video guy was on like suicide watch, they confiscated his laptop, shoelaces and belt because we were going ‘mate, what the f*** was that’.”


The 2008 tour of New Zealand didn’t end well for England after a 37-20 loss in the first Test in Auckland, a heavy 44-12 loss was suffered in the second with Ma’a Nonu bagging a try.

On the 2008 end of year tour the All Blacks travelled to England for a one-off test where another video was put together but the video fell flat after a malfunction.

England suffered a 32-6 loss with two tries to Mils Muliaina and one to Ma’a Nonu.

“The worst one was, again we were playing New Zealand,” he said.

“All week we were talking about New Zealand and they put on this video during the team run.

“We were at Twickenham Stadium, all the kits laid out for the warm-up, they played this video on the big screen and basically it goes ‘England versus New Zealand, November, 2008’ or whenever it was.

“It’s one of the scenes from Goodfellas where one of the Neighbours gropes the guy’s wife, Ray Liotta’s wife, but there is no sound.

“You see this guy walk up, get a gun and pistol whip this guy onto the floor.. we were there like ‘what the f***’ and then [at the end of the video] it says ‘bring the violence’.

“Obviously you could tell it was a fault as there was no sound. Well we’ve run out and I’ve gone ‘well I’m confused, do I need to bring a gun tomorrow to play New Zealand?”

“You would’ve thought they would’ve gone and binned that but no, day of the game on the bus, hit it. Same thing but with sound this time.

“The best thing is we only got pumped by 30 points. What is beating someone with a pistol got to do with the game?”


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