The key issue that drives performance is the meaning one puts onto an event. The Welsh could have seen the unfair sending off as ‘curtains’ for them – instead, I expect they put a different meaning on the event – one of ‘we now need to prove it’. The event galvanised the team and gave them a real focus.
Performance is so often linked to belief. Small little events can then become ‘reference experiences’ that build to a higher belief. For example, just missing the half-line kick by inches could have been used to build a belief that “It’s not our day” (which is a fatal mistake as you disempower yourself).
So why is it pyrrhic for France? Because a little germ of a thought has been planted in their brains – ‘If we were only just able to hold off the Welsh when they had 14 men, how will we fare against the Kiwis/Australia?”
But Wales can build from this ‘failure’ (as many people do in their own lives) if they continue to focus on a positive meaning from it – that of the undying Welsh spirit. The next time they find themselves down they can draw upon this event as a reference experience to build their belief to keep pushing and never giving up.
Today is a day that as an Englishman, I am so deeply proud of Wales.