Gareth Southgate is hoping some of what makes New Zealand the best rugby team in the world and Germany such a consistent force in football will rub off on his England players.
The 46-year-old has been working with a senior All Blacks coach for most of this year to improve the culture and mental strength of the England men’s senior team, Press Association Sport understands.
The German connection is a result of the memorandum of understanding the Football Association signed with their German counterparts, the DFB, in March.
That two-year agreement will see the footballing rivals share ideas on coaching, governance and youth development, but Southgate has also been speaking to the world champions about how they deal with the media, particularly during tournaments.
It is understood that the former defender, who was capped 57 times during his playing career, is keen to lift some of the tension that descends on England teams at European Championships and World Cups and believes better relations with the media – and a more relaxed approach in general – could be key.
The All Blacks influence is behind the team-bonding trip England took to the Royal Marines training centre in June and the cap ceremonies each new player gets when they join the squad now.
Already influenced by former England rugby union coach Sir Clive Woodward, Southgate has also introduced “teamship” rules for correct dress, positive behaviour and good time-keeping, with the players themselves taking the lead in policing these rules.
The All Blacks have boiled this philosophy down to what they call, with familiar directness, a “no d***heads” policy and Southgate is understood to be a strong believer in the importance of character in elite sport.
He is also not above highlighting his own shortcomings as each England player is now shown a film about what it means to play for his country which opens with the penalty Southgate took against Germany in the semi-final of Euro 96. His shoot-out effort, as with so many others in an England shirt, was saved and Germany won.
The current England side travel to face Malta on Friday in their next World Cup qualifier in Group F, before playing Slovakia, who trail them by two points after six games, at Wembley on Monday.
Since replacing Sam Allardyce last September, at first on a caretaker basis, Southgate has presided over three wins, three draws and two defeats.
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