David Joyce's blog - Terrible winners, these Poms!
I’m writing this from my hotel room in Melbourne, where we are just about to start our game day preparations for the first match of the season. I cannot wait for kickoff. Preseason has gone on for 16 weeks and it’s now time to see how successful all the preparations and plans have been. We’re expecting it to be around 27 degrees at kickoff (7:40pm) and fitness will play a big part in who gets over the line.
The teams competing in the RBS 6 Nations tournament in Europe will not face the same climactic challenges though. They are more likely to be concerned about frostbite than they are heat exhaustion. This year’s 6 Nations is proving to be very interesting with only the English still in with a show of winning the Grand Slam (victory in all 5 games).
I’m somewhat surprised by the disappointing showing of the French this season, having been beaten by Italy and then Wales. The English showed that they are developing a winning mentality by grinding out a win in Dublin in a truly uninspiring match. The Scots showed that they are still a team in development and the Italians are slowly but surely bridging the gap.
6 Nations rugby tends to be a real war of attrition. Often played in less than ideal conditions, the winners tend to be the most disciplined team that do not give away cheap penalties (and therefore territory and points). The winners also tend to be characterised by having a good run with injuries and a deep talent pool to be able to draw upon should an injury occur.
Whilst winning any tournament is important, the key trophy to lift is the World Cup, so competitions at this stage of the 4-year cycle tend to be viewed by coaching staff as developmental. They are often used to see how players react to playing in the furnace of pressure that big tournaments produce. Very rarely will a ‘bolter’ join a World Cup team, having not been tested in one of these big tournaments beforehand.
They are also a very good opportunity for coaching and performance staff to test their own systems and initiatives to ensure everything is water tight for the big show that will take place in England in 2015. With this in mind, the goings-on in the background from a performance perspective in the various teams will be a refinement on what took place last year. This includes pre-game lifting and nutrition / supplementation protocols.
One of my best mates works for the England team and, being a very proud Australian, I hope they get rolled by the French this weekend. Having said that, though, I fully expect them to triumph and to go on to win the Grand Slam. I also expect my mate to be sending me texts about how well his players are going. Terrible winners, these Poms. It’s a shame they do it so often!
Til next week,
Stay robust amigos
David is the Head of Athletic Performance at Emirates Western Force in the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby Competition. He holds Masters degrees in both Sports Physiotherapy and Strength and Conditioning and lectures in Sports Physiotherapy at the University of Bath (UK) and in Exercise Science (S+C) at Edith Cowan University (Australia).