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VIDEO - England Women take on Army training

09 July 2010

  • England Assistant Coach, Graham Smith, takes us behind the scenes as England Women prepare for August's World Cup
  • England Women pushed to the limit in a Welsh Guards' Army training session

With just over a month to go until the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010, England’s training regime is in full swing. The England squad are meeting up every week, at various venues across the country, and England Assistant Coach, Graham Smith, will be giving a unique insight into how the host nation’s preparations are going.

Day One – Bath University

July 1 was the start of an action packed seven days which saw us meet at Bath University before crossing the border into Wales, to the home of the Welsh Guards, where the Army put us through our paces, both physically and mentally.

The first day of our five pre-tournament training camps started with a referee presentation on IRB directives for the world cup. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is something that could prove crucial during the world cup. RFU Referee Steve Leyshon also put the girls through their paces on the pitch to put what they’d learned in the classroom into practice. It was a very good day for the first session and the physicality and intensity was very pleasing. These girls don’t mess about, they can hit!

Day Two – Bath University

Today was Front up Friday and in the morning we had a fantastic session which typified what these girls are all about - total effort and commitment. Emily Scarratt even ran until she was sick! Today they really pushed each other, through footwork, speed and acceleration, boxing and shuttle runs. 

The afternoon session was a forwards and backs split, with the forwards working on line outs and the backs on play from the line outs. With all this going on the staff though we should do some fitness too, so myself, Gary Street, Dave Gardener and Dan Howells hit the gym for some cardio and beach weight sessions, while Dan, our strength and conditioning coach, did some more serious weights – that was until he dropped a weight on his toe, which is now black and bleeding!

Day Three – Bath University

England captain Cath Spencer training in the gym

Photo: RFU Archive

The pattern of the training camps is emerging - we get up, eat, train, eat, train, eat, pack and unpack the trailer. Interspersed with this are meetings and medical appointments. Today we had the addition of sweat testing for the players to find everyone’s volume of fluid loss. As always, it turned into a competition to see who takes the longest to sweat, who is the saltiest sweater etc…

Day Four – Bath University and the Brecon Beacons

Today we headed to the Brecon Beacons for our army adventure! After days of training in the sunshine just as we headed over the Severn Bridge (I didn’t forget my £5.50 toll money this time!) it started to rain, and I mean really rain. Was the gloomy conditions a sign of things to come at Crickhowell…?

Days Five, Six and Seven – The Brecon Beacons

England players in Army training

Photo: RFU Archive

As soon as we arrived at the home of the Welsh Guards the squad and management were split into four sections. Dave Gardener, Amy Garnett, Amy Turner, Kat Merchant, Jo McGilchrist, Anna Palfreyman, Sophie Weaver and Emily Scarratt were lucky enough to have me in their group. Our first task was to get kitted out; full on combat gear, ponchos, bergens, sleeping bags, water bottle, rifle, stove and 24 hour rations (not tasty I can tell you).

PADS (pain associated discipline) were given out for any misdemeanour such as hands in pockets, arms folded, back chat, and the loss of your gun was a biggy. The punishments ranged from press ups to crawling across the ground with your rifle.

Our first activity was a 6K march up into the hills in sweltering hot conditions, and over some very rough terrain. This passed without too much incident Streety (Gary Street) got some blisters, but he battled on over all three days.

England players in Army training

Photo: RFU Archive

Once into basic training we ran through all the activities we would go through during our 24 hours of sleep deprivation. Things like night manoeuvres, patrol hand signals, section line ups for extended attack or arrow head for battle, how to pack/unpack when in camp (that’s Arbour in army terms). Eventually we marched into our Arbour and erected our poncho to give us a little cover from the elements that night, before the night watch and night patrols (looking out for our enemy) started.

We did survive the night, albeit a little worse for wear after very little sleep! The onslaught continued the next day though with an actual battle, an army assault course, a river plunge and an army fitness test! Not the best thing when you’re 50, with bad knees and other bits that don’t work well. I had one thing on my mind though and that was the thought of the abuse I’d get from Amy Garnett if I didn’t make it!

After a night of sleeping rough, pretending to be a soldier, and six hard days of training we were finally let off the hook and allowed to enjoy a couple of cold beers in the local pub, as well as a real bed for the night. Joy! Just four days to go until the next camp...