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How We Play Rugby in New Zealand

Dec 13 2016
Photo by
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Photo by
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Julian Savea
All Blacks
Dec 13 2016

E ditor’s note: Typically for our popular How We Play series, we have one athlete tell the story of what makes the sporting culture of their hometown unique. But when the New Zealand national rugby team came to Chicago, we had the opportunity to get three All Blacks in the same room.

This is what happened next.…

Beauden Barrett
How do we start this, mate?

Ardie Savea
I think Jules should start, since he’s the old man here. Come on, big bro, you got the gift.

Julian Savea
What’s up, it’s “the Bus” here.

Ardie
Hahahah. Noooooo, bro. You can’t say that. This is going to go out to America.

Beauden
They already got a Bus there, mate.

Julian
Listen, there’s only one Bus, O.K.?

Ardie
Hahahah. Noooooooo.

ap_953545213975Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Images

Beauden
Man, don’t do this.

Julian
Listen, there’s only one Bus … and that’s Jerome Bettis. The legend. Respect.

Ardie
This is off to a great start. Half our audience just turned away. Listen, America, we love the NFL, alright?

Julian
Von Miller, that’s my man. I love Von.

Beauden
The thing is, when you’re a kid in New Zealand, at least when we were kids, rugby was everything. One of my earliest memories is sitting in front of the TV with my dad watching the All Blacks do the haka before the match, and I stood up in front of the TV and crouched down to mimic what they were doing. My arms were flying around, I was chanting. It was like the guys on TV were comic book heroes or something.

Ardie
Mate, you were lucky. We couldn’t afford the Sky Sports package. Me and Jules would watch the game down at the club with Dad.

Julian
Hahahah, for real. He would take us down to the club with him when we were like five years old. We’d sit at the bar and eat peanuts during the rugby.

Ardie
Couldn’t do the haka on the club floor, man.

Julian
But yeah, Beaudy’s right. When you’re a Kiwi, rugby is everything. I think it’s a little bit different than almost anywhere else in the world in that respect. It’s really a part of the culture. For us, it started at the lodge of my dad’s rugby club. The lodge is kind of like a clubhouse where all the parents and all the kids go on Sundays. After the match, you eat and drink and talk for the whole day. All your aunties and uncles are there. It’s not just about rugby, it’s kind of like a community thing.

Ardie
We used to play knee rugby up on the balcony over the lodge. The ball was too big to hold, so we’d roll up a sock or something and just start smashing each other.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 26: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden of New Zealand perform the Haka before the international friendly test match between France and New Zealand (All Blacks) at Stade de France on November 26, 2016 in Saint-Denis near Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Julian
Yeah, but we were so little that we didn’t know the techniques or anything, so I don’t know if I’d even call it knee rugby. It was basically like we’d line up on opposite ends of the floor, and then crawl towards one another until we smashed together as hard as we could.

Ardie
It was so much fun.

Julian
Yeah, until you’d start crying, bro.

Ardie
I would, wouldn’t I?

Julian
The adults were oblivious. They were chilling. They were all good with us smashing it up until somebody started crying. That somebody always being Ardie, of course.

Ardie
I was so competitive. I was crazy.

Julian
Bro, you’d start crying and I’d have to give you the look. Man, I still give you the look. “Don’t you tell ’em it’s my fault.”

Beauden
Hahahaha.

Julian
Ardie loved to play so much as a kid. Whenever they used to call off our rugby matches for rain or something, Ardie wouldn’t believe our mum.

Ardie
I used to walk down to the field in the rain. Just to see.

Julian
Just to make sure! Hahahaha.

Ardie
If there was really nobody there, I used to cry. Like, Come on, it’s just a little bit of rain. Why can’t we play?

Julian
I can’t even lie, I think I cried a few times too.

Ardie
I remember we’d always end up breaking stuff in the lodge playing knee rugby, and we’d all go run and hide. We broke a few trophies, remember?

Julian
Hooooohoooooo. Who’s trophies, though?

Ardie
Nah, man.

Julian
Come on, who’s trophies?

Ardie
Probably yours. You were a beast. The little Bus.

Julian
From me and Ardie’s perspective, rugby was our life.

gettyimages-596241856Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Beauden
Yeah, me too. From the time I was a kid growing up watching my dad play, that’s all I wanted to do. I remember waking up at like five o’clock in the morning to watch the All Blacks play South Africa. You’d put the jug on and make a hot Milo to wake up.

Julian
That’s like a hot cocoa, America.

Beauden
Do they not have hot Milo in the States?

Julian
Nah, man. I don’t think so.

Beauden
They’re missing out then. That was part of the morning routine when the All Blacks had an early morning kickoff. You dreamed about pulling on that black jersey some day, but obviously it was pretty long odds.

Julian
Ah man, Ardie and I just thought about playing for the local club. To actually have the chance to play for New Zealand, and to do it together on the same field … just unbelievable.

Beauden
Yeah, obviously my own brother Scott just made his debut for the All Blacks against Ireland while we were on a tour of the States, and it’s just the best feeling. In a country of 4.4 million people, where every kid grows up dreaming of playing for the All Blacks, you have two Saveas and two Barretts on the same field.

Ardie
You still drinking Milos before the game?

Beauden
No, you know my routine, mate. I enjoy a nice scone, poached eggs on toast and some porridge.

Julian
This guy loves to nap, man.

Beauden
I do love a good lie down.

Ardie
Beaudy needs his naps. He’s like our quarterback. He’s gotta link up the forwards and the backs. He’s the real cerebral player out there. So, hey, let the man get his rest.

ap_805988265448Rex Features/AP Images

Julian
How many naps you take a day, mate?

Beauden
On a test day? A good two or three.

Ardie
I can’t sleep. Once I’m up, I’m too anxious to play. I’m turnt up, bro.

Julian
When Ardie gets in the shower, that’s when it’s on.

Ardie
Seriously, that’s my favorite part. I’m really into my music. So right before I shower, I put on my music and I get into my Beast Mode.

Julian
Hahahaha. Beast Mode. We’re gonna get sued, bro.

Ardie
Beast Mode! Actually, when I’m driving to the game and I’ve got my music full blast, that’s when I’m in 100% Beast Mode.

Beauden
What are you listening to?

Julian
Taylor Sw—

Ardie
Hahaha. Hey. No. Listen. You know, a little bit of everything.

Julian
My Beast Mode moment is the minute just before we run out of the tunnel. That’s when I really feel it. But when I’m on the field, there’s a moment in almost every game that I love. For my position, which I guess is kind of like a running back, the beauty of it is that moment when I’m running down the wing in space, and I see a little passing lane open up, and I can sense that my teammate is about to chuck me the ball. Ah, man, that’s the best.

In the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals, that moment happened when we were playing France. And the crazy part was, it was Dan Carter who was about to pass me the ball. That was me and Ardie’s hero growing up. To do it in the World Cup with him … nothing better, mate. Awesome. Nothing better.

Ardie
America, you gotta look up this video. It’s everything that makes Dan Carter a legend. He stiff-arms one defender like Marshawn Lynch.…

Julian
No, first he fakes a pass to me, and that freezes the first defender. Then he stiff-arms the second guy, and right as he’s about to get smashed, he off-loads it to me with a little underarm flip.

Ardie
America, look at my brother’s eyes at the end of that clip. Look at ’em! He’s like, Whaaaaaaat? Are you serious?

Julian
Hahahah. I grabbed the ball and I was off, man.

Ardie
I liked your other try better.

Julian
What, when I smashed it in?

Ardie
Yeah, bro!

Julian
Hey, that’s how we play rugby in New Zealand. We got guys with the class and the vision like Beaudy and Dan, and we got guys like me, who just love to smash it up.

Julian Savea
All Blacks