I’m fascinated by culture, both in a sporting context and in business, who were the characters you will look back upon as great leaders and why?
One of the major influences, while I was at Tiger, was a guy called Pete Tong who was the guy at the top. He was affable but also a hard-nose businessman. The key was that he made everyone in that club, not just the players, feel as though they were contributing to the success of the team. And when you have guy like that who sets that type of example at the top and really gets people to buy into it — it elevates everyone throughout the club. You’v got the guy on the door, the groundsman believing that he’s had as important a role as the guys on the pitch and that makes a huge difference. The key is that it starts at the top and filters down.
Who inspires you?
As a kid, on reflection is would be my old man. When I think back he just worked incredibly hard. And I respect that. Like anything in life, if you want to be successful, you have to have that work ethic. Sporting wise, as a kid I always loved American football and used to watch the Chicago Bears. I would say Walter Payton? That guy is a machine. It was often like he got tackled from five different directions and the man just refused to give up. That’s what I really enjoyed about him — that tenacity.
Looking back, who did you like going into matches by your side?
Playing with and for Martin Johnson, the world cup winning captain in 2003 was very special. I grew up watching him and then at 18 years old I had the opportunity to play with him. It sounds sad but I really wanted to be better so I could play alongside him. Because, you knew when the whistle blew, the first man to pile into a tackle or breakdown would be him. He inspired those around him to be better than they thought they could be. When I used to go away with England, a lot of the guys tended to have a break once they got home, but ‘Jonno’ was straight back in the very next day setting standards. He was just awesome, and a good bloke.