With the Six Nations in full swing, rugby union’s elite are back in one of their most intense periods of the year.
Ahead of England’s World Cup final clash with South Africa last year, former Wales captain Sam Warburton told The Times [link: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/id-be-in-so-much-pain-id-go-upstairs-on-hands-and-knees-0c757pjdg] about what goes into a week of preparation for an international.
Here’s what he had to say.
“You come off the pitch and there is just elation.
“There would be an optional beer there for a small celebration. Yes, drinking alcohol is detrimental to recovery but with seven days until the final you could still have one or two to celebrate if you wanted. You have to enjoy and embrace the victory, even if you still have to drink your antioxidant recovery smoothie too.
“And then it would start. The adrenaline would start wearing off. People say it lasts for 12 hours but it doesn’t. You go into the shower and what you have just been through begins to become apparent. You have been smashing into 20-stone blokes and they have been smashing into you. There are bound to be bruises. There is bound to be pain.”
“This is the recovery day. The session will usually be in the pool, but obviously if you have open wounds you can’t go in there.”
“I would not want to do too much on the Monday, so this could easily be another day off.”
“Seventy-two hours was my usual recovery time after a big international.”
“I would still feel sore but you are starting to feel better. This is the big training day of the week. In the morning there will be a weights session and the forwards and backs will do their separate unit sessions. There will be live scrummaging and mauling sessions. In the afternoon you will come together and you will do a team session.”
“A complete day off.”
“The training today is the same as a Tuesday but much shorter and sharper.
“So it might be a 49-minute session in total, and there would be, say, six minutes of defence, 11 minutes of set piece, six minutes of attack and so on. Everything would be timed to complete accuracy. There would be no lengthening of the session, which put pressure on us to make sure we did everything sharply, precisely and at a high intensity.
“Normally this was the day when my body started to feel really good again. I almost always felt ready to play again now.”
“Just a team run.
“Nearly every player will have a massage before he goes to bed. As they do that the team doctor will be walking around asking if players want anything, and most will say: ‘A sleeper please.’”
“The final kicks off at 6pm in Japan so if you work backwards you will have a meal every three hours before that.
“Even the meals are torture. I would be the first to sit down and the last to leave as I tried to force myself to eat. The waiting is horrible. But winning always makes it worth it.”