England were so close in the Euros, just as you were so close in the World Cup of ’19. But fitness is a key component – you mentioned the transitions and how quick the game is right now. It’s the same with rugby: we’re seeing so many huge leaps forward in terms of fitness and practices. Just how fit is the modern-day rugby athlete?
“Yeah, pretty good. Not at the level of what the footballers are, but pretty good now. We used to traditionally have an off-season where they could relax and put on a bit of weight, but it’s getting too hard for the players to do that. With the training facilities we’ve got here and the training facilities we’ve got around the world, there’s every opportunity for the players to be in their best condition. They definitely have a running edge, but if they had to do a few contacts it might go the other way!”
Sadly, many might say that physical contact is disappearing from the Premier League. But it’s such a huge component…
“Rugby’s still very much a collision and run game, whereas football’s very much a run game, isn’t it? And that’s the difference. So our guys are obviously more heavily muscled, and you’ve probably seen in the gym there the sort of weights they lift. Your guys, it’s all about evading collision and, sometimes, feinting collision!”
We’ve got fantastic coaches here to work with. You surround yourself with good people as well. With Ole being the manager, how important is it that he surrounds himself with the right people?
“The performance staff – your coaching, your nutrition, your sports science, your medical staff – they are all the foundation of the programme, and then the manager or the head coach then comes in and makes sure it’s all coordinated, all moving in the right direction. If there’s a tweak needed there or a tweak needed there, he’s there to do that. His ability to observe and synergise all of that work is just so important.”