People out there think that I have one of the lowest heartbeats in rugby. I often get asked how I have so much time on the pitch. Where does the cool come from? Mmmm, well I’m not sure you are all going to like the answer, but the illusion of time comes from a lot of hard work.
It doesn’t matter if you are Tiger Woods or Tiger Lily, making the game look simple requires sweat. If you want to look good playing rugby – and 10 is a cool position – then you are going to have to be prepared to work at it.
You can’t be Picasso without learning to draw first. You can’t be the next Grant Fox or Andrew Mehrtens without being in charge of the basics. I tell any young players who want to play first five eighth or fly-half as you call it in the north: ‘Learn the core skills.’
10 is a great position for all round skills. You have to be able to kick and preferably off both feet. A 10 who can only kick off one foot is easily closed down by the defence. One of the reasons Jonny Wilkinson remains one of my hardest opponents is because he can kick off both feet. So practise your weaker foot, but don’t wreck your dad’s guttering with mishit rugby balls like I did as a kid.
You also need to be able to pass and catch. It sounds simple, but how many great players sometimes drop a ball under pressure or misfire passes off their weaker hand. The more you practice, the less things go wrong in the big, high stress moments.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, a good 10 has to be a great communicator. It’s no good telling people what they should have done after a move has gone sideways. Keep in people’s ear. Learn how to talk to them. Get your message across. And like all the other skills – anyone can talk badly. You want to talk well. So practise it.