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The Courage of Aki/The Class of Perenara

“Better people make better All-Blacks.”

– Motto for the New Zealand Rugby Team, The All-Blacks

As an Irish person it would probably be remiss of me not to dedicate this email to the Irish rugby victory over the mighty New Zealand All-Blacks over the weekend.

On Saturday night they put down a marker to the sporting world that they are serious contenders for the upcoming World Cup in 2019.

In a night full of incredible moments, two stood out for me.

The first was as the All-Blacks began their renowned pre-match intimidatory tactic, the Haka, and the Irish team stood defiantly, arm in arm, facing them in a straight line.

In the middle of them was a native New Zealander, Bundee Aki, who qualifies to play for Ireland under World Rugby’s Residency Rule.

Aki moved to Ireland four years ago with his family and found himself on the receiving end of some direct and unflattering comments from his former NZ compatriots.

You can imagine the psychological challenge, but like his Irish team-mates, Aki stared the Haka down. And then symbolically stepped forward with the line of the Irish team to meet the challenge that was being laid down.

The crowd went nuts.

And the second moment that struck me was after the game was over.

The NZ scrum half, TJ Perenara, approached Aki and performed a ‘Hongi’ – touching foreheads and noses together as a sign of respect.

The Maori tradition was a small but classy moment in the midst of deafening noise and celebrations on the Irish side.

The All-Blacks don’t like losing but they gave a great example of how to graciously accept defeat.

Two questions for the week ahead…

Where can you step forward this week, in courage, like Aki and the Irish team?

Even if things aren’t going your way, like Perenara, who can you show respect and appreciation to this week – even in ‘defeat’?

Best,

Shane

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