Look out for the huddles after a try is scored

During the Six Nations you may notice certain teams breathing together as one. France are big fans, as are Ireland, and plenty others.

But what’s behind it? Below we explain the psychological tactic…

Rugby team breathing exercise

As part of a recent feature, we asked sports psychologist Stephen Mellalieu about certain psychological tools. And here’s what he told us.

Rugby World: We’ve seen teams do the collective breathing thing in a huddle, such as after a score. How does that help?

Stephen Mellalieu: “It’s a centering exercise. So it’s a way of bringing you back to the present. It’s rooted in eastern philosophy and is a mindfulness-based technique. And very simply, because of everything that goes on in the game, it’s easy to get distracted away from the present.

teams breathing

Ireland huddle up (Ben Brady/Inpho)

“When we’re playing our best, we’re focused on the next play. We’re thinking about our job and we’re analysing the environment and making decisions. When we get distracted for whatever reason, we come away from the present and we start to worry about the future.

“An easy place to do it collectively is after a score, to come together and have the act of doing something together. It’s physically a centering or grounding exercise. You see a lot of players naturally do it. Before a hooker gets to the lineout, they may take a deep breath ahead of the throw, just to centre themselves. Kickers too. But now you’ll see teams do it.”

More on why teams breath in huddle

In 2021 We also wrote the below:

Watch the deciding third Test in the enthralling series on Saturday and you may notice it after a try is scored by either side – France and Wallabies team breathing exercises in a huddle.

France kicking coach Vlok Cilliers has told Rugby World that the thinking behind it for them is: “just to let the guys relax, get their normal breathing back and some teams use it to give messages as well.”

According to a spokesperson from the Wallabies, it’s something a number of teams are doing not just in rugby union but also in other football codes in Australia.

Which leads you to Rugby League – and once you dig into the practice there, you realise that things may actually lead back to the All Blacks…

At Brisbane Broncos in the NRL, their coach Kevin Walters introduced what they term ‘breathing for warriors’. As their full-back Jamayne Isaako explained in March 2021: “We spoke about having a trigger point when things didn’t go our way. We stuck to what we set out to do, I don’t know if you have seen the Warriors’ breathing technique but we introduced that to the team this week and getting our blue heads on instead of our red heads when things don’t go our way.

“We did that when we scored tries, just re-focused our mindsets to get to our next set and get to a kick which is crucial against the good teams.”

France and Wallabies team breathing exercises

The Warriors gather in a huddle, 2018 (Getty Images)

But if you notice that it’s Warriors in the quote, not warriors, it leads you to the story of the NRL’s New Zealand Warriors side, who started using team breathing. And where did they get the idea? Apparently it was former All Blacks captain Kieran Read.

In 2018 the NRL side were seen breathing as one unit. Asked about it, then-Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck said: “It’s something we got off Kieran Read when he came into camp over the trip in Papamoa.

“It’s just to bring everyone back in, refocus and get ready for what’s next.”

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