Rugby players in a scrum

What can businesses learn from world cup rugby in 2019

01 August 2019    |    By: Kris Littlewood
The biggest tournament in the rugby calendar is set to begin at the end of September 2019 when hosts, Japan, kick-off against Russia in Tokyo. We have taken a look at some of the characteristics that are shown on the rugby pitch and applied them to the business world to see how you can use these sportsmen as an example.


One of the biggest reasons that rugby stands out from other sports is the level of respect shown on the pitch. Players respect each other, their managers and the fans, and respect for the referee is on a level rarely shown in any other sport around the world.

Respect is vital, whether this is in your workplace or outside when you are trying to stand out amongst your competition. In the workplace, respect for other colleagues will help to reduce stress and resolve conflicts, which will also give your productivity a boost and help your team develop their learning and understanding.

Respect is also important when trying to make yourself stand out amongst your competition. Whilst you need to think of the reasons that you are better than your competition, you will also need to recognise their strengths to improve your own practices. This requires a level of respect to acknowledge your competition’s accomplishments.



During the 2015 World Cup, the 11th ranked team, Japan, played 2nd ranked South Africa, in a group game that would go down as one of the biggest shocks in the history of rugby. As the clock reached the 80 minute mark, Japan had an unmissable penalty which could have taken the game to a 32-32 conclusion, but after a team huddle, Japan decided to go for the win and after 5 minutes of grinding away at the South African defence, managed to secure a try in the far left corner to secure a 34-32 win, their first world cup win since 1991.

Determination is an attribute that is especially important for businesses that might just be starting out. You will have setbacks throughout your early years, but having the determination to keep going through the hard times will hopefully have a payoff.

For established companies, challenges may come in different forms to businesses that are just starting out, but it is the determination to get through any challenges that will help in the long run.

Team work

As a team sport, rugby players are relying on their team mates around them to work towards a common goal for success. It is vital for all 15 players on the team to know their role within the team, but players will sometimes cover for their team mates if they need to.

Teamwork is essential at your company too, to make sure that everyone can do their work to the best of their ability. Whilst some people may have their own responsibilities, the team around them will have other skills that can make life easier for the team as a whole, which leads to success for your business.


Recruiting from within

New Zealand are undeniably the most dominant force in international rugby, having won the World Cup in 2011 and 2015, and being 1st place in the world rugby rankings for most of the years since the rankings were introduced. However, to be eligible to play as an All Black, Kiwi players usually have to play their domestic rugby in New Zealand, despite clubs in other countries offering higher salaries for players. Some players have been subject to exceptions to this rule, as eligibility for a place in the squad can be accepted at the coach’s discretion.

Australia also has this rule in effect, with the only exception being certain players who have previous experience with the Australian national team and in the Super Rugby league. This is known as Giteau’s Law.

Depending on the size of your company, you may need to attract team members from other places, however, if you already have a large staff pool, look to the team that you already have and see how you can develop them. A report from LinkedIn showed that 93% of employees would stay with their company longer if they invested in their careers, so not only will you keep hold of your staff, you will be developing talent from within.


In the sporting world, being the captain of the team rarely has much significance, other than leading the team onto the field or taking part in the coin toss, and is mainly an honorary position or recognition of experience or quality as a player.

In rugby, however, a captain will often have the responsibility of the manager, as the actual manager will usually stay in a technical area away from the pitch, unlike sports such as football where the manager will be on the side-line. Because of this, rugby captains need to be a point of contact for the referee, manage on-pitch discipline and will have the responsibility of making tactical calls.

Leadership qualities transfer well into the business world, where leaders also have their roles in managing their teams’ discipline and make tactical calls to help the business. Leadership skills can come naturally to some people, but can also be taught.



Rugby is well known for having a very stop/start style of play, with the main tactics being based on the set plays of the game, such as line outs or scrums. Communication is essential in organising tactics on the field, especially between the scrum half and fly half, who are seen as the links between forwards and backs. As mentioned above, the captains of the teams are the ones responsible for communication between the referee and the team, but will also have a role to play in making tactical decisions.

A piece of research showed that only one third of emails are ever opened, and poor communication can lead to poor performance from your team. Many businesses see communication as a vital part of their day to day activities, and will strive for ways to make improvements, whether this is internal or outward-facing communications. Depending on the size of your company, and how many employees you have, it might be worth appointing a communication champion who will work to improve communications for your business.

Premierline’s parent company, Allianz, are currently the proud sponsors of the rugby union club, Saracens, a relationship that goes back to 2012 when Allianz signed a 6-year deal to sponsor the club, which has since been extended to 2021.

We spoke to David Jones, Head of Player Development Programme at Saracens, and Will Fraser, Director of The Saracens Way, to find out about the similarities between rugby and business.

“Sport and Business can learn from each other as both endeavours are fundamentally about people.  At Saracens, our people and culture remain our central focus. We are always looking at how we can provide a fun, challenging and rewarding environment, so people can give the most of themselves every day. We believe if you can get “the people bit” right, the rest will begin to fall into place.” – David Jones, Head of Player Development Programme at Saracens

‘At Saracens we look to create the highest level of performance by looking after our people. If we create good people, we create good rugby players and this is true in any organisation. If you create good people they will be better at their jobs as they will be willing to work harder, give more, share information and help those around them.” - Will Fraser, Director of The Saracens Way

Will retired from rugby in 2017 and has since joined The Saracens Way as Director,  this programme brings the Saracens’ values, mentality and processes to help organisations improve their business models.

Kris Littlewood
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Kris is a marketing professional with over 15 years of experience across both the insurance and hospitality sectors. Specialising in digital marketing communications, he has also been awarded a Certificate in Insurance qualification from the Chartered Insurance Institute. As a digital marketing consultant at Premierline, Kris has an in-depth knowledge of the needs and concerns of small business owners across the UK and enjoys writing about marketing, innovation and business strategy.
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