Senior Rugby Training Old And New

When I switched codes and moved from the St.Helens RU club to the St.Helens RL club I was handed a pair of running spikes prior to my first training session and joined the rest of the players on a 60 metres cinder track complete with starting blocks. Sprint training was regarded as one of the major necessities for all players, be they flying wingers like St.Helens’ former Springbok RU star, Tom Van Vollenhoven, or Great Britain RL prop, Cliff Watson. No one was exempt from the compulsory sessions and a sprint coach kept a careful check on all our times and performances. Though our captain, the legendary pack star, Vince Karalius, made a set of weights for me personally from out of his Scrap Metals Merchants Yard I cannot recall ever lifting a weight in training in ten years at both the St.Helens and Widnes clubs for which I played.

Not so today when every Super League club has its own gymnasium stocked with every weight lifting contraption it is possible to buy. And the players are ‘pumping iron’ almost on a daily basis and building muscle on muscle!

In the 15 a side code, certainly with the England squad, it would appear that greater attention is given to speed and running techniques, regardless of the player’s position in the team.

Jonas Dodoo, a sprint coach who is currently monitoring the English and Bath back stars, Anthony Watson and Jonathon Joseph, is insistent that all types of union players need tuition from a sprint coach for, as he insists, ”Every player can become a more efficient runner whatever his position, whatever his body shape. The 120kg props are highly tuned machines, they’re just more like tractors than Formula One cars. The beauty of rugby is that you need both types of vehicle and they can always be made to go faster.”  

In Rugby League the experts now appear to be making its players bigger and stronger while their Union counterparts appear to be concentrating on making their players faster and, possibly lighter. Beats me!But I must confess, in my playing days, I always preferred the running to the lifting.

Ray French March 2017