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England’s World Cup training diary – Camp Two

26 July 2010

  • Assistant Coach, Graham Smith, takes us behind the scenes as England Women prepare for August's World Cup
  • No rest for the wicked as the girls head to Bisham Abbey for more training
Graham Smith watches on from the scrum machine

Photo: RFU Archive

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, gives RFU.com a unique insight into how the host nation's preparations are going.

Day One – Bisham Abbey

An early staff meeting kicked off camp two, although there were some noticeable absences. Jan Man (Janette Shaw, Team Manager) was still at school – working that is, and there was no sign of Davo (Dave Gardner, Performance Analyst) and Nicky Ponsford as they were both on their way back from Moscow with the England 7s.

So the newly named 'Ann Man' (Anna Palfreyman, Lifestyle coach) took over as team manager and did a sterling job. "Jan Man, who?" was the cry bellowing around camp.

The staff team were also joined by the world renowned sports psychologist Bill Beswick who is mentoring Streety (Gary Street) and myself through our world cup experience. In the evening Bill ran a short presentation for the staff on ‘The Team behind the Team’ and even though it was 10.30pm by the time he wrapped up it seemed to go well. Bill is a very engaging speaker.

After our Army exploits last week in the Brecon Beacons it was back to the rugby this week. The players were split into two team and worked on our patterns and running lines. The players, and staff, initially looked a little lethargic but the pace soon picked up and the players started to flow, afterall, rugby is what we do best.

Day Two – Bisham Abbey

Members of the England squad brave a smile from the ice bath

Photo: RFU Archive

It’s 'Toughen up Tuesday'. After breakfast, medical appointments and then strapping, we went pitch-side for the high intensity and high contact weekly session. 

We started with the dreaded shuttle test, and the increasingly disliked Dan Howells (Strength and Conditioning Coach), set up a number of gruelling activities including boxing, tug of war, more shuttles and speed and agility work.

Once again the players attack the challenge and did themselves proud and were rewarded with a nice ice bath. Despite the girls hating the weekly shuttle runs, Dan is happy to report that they collectively beat their personal best.

After lunch Gary, Barney (Mike Barnett), Davo and I worked on some video analysis in preparation for the player meeting tomorrow before heading outside again for some forward and back sessions.

We were a couple of players light today as Becky Essex had to go back to work for a parents evening while Jo McGilchrist has been having two days of interviews for a physio job. I'm delighted to say that she got the job, so congratulations Jo!

England's Jo McGilchrist in action against Scotland

Photo: RFU Archive

Another incident involving Jo came to light today which kept us all amused. On the way back from our three day army adventure in the Brecon Beacons, Jo, Amy Turner and Crallen (Claire Allen) stopped at a service station to get a coffee to perk them up.

Jo went off to the ladies, but 25 minutes later and Amy T and Crallen were wondering where she’d gone. Jo suddenly emerged, only to reveal that she had fallen asleep on the toilet!

Day Three – Bisham Abbey

Today was defence day and we had Simon Middleton, Leeds Carnegie Defence Coach, running the sessions. The session went well with Simon being able to get a balance with the physicality needed.

The players worked hard and demonstrated they have a very good level of knowledge of this area. We finished off with a competitive game which is always a concern for the coaches because of the risk of injury.

But at the same time, it's a necessity. There are only a few bumps and bruises to report, which sometimes surprises me considering how much the girls rip into each other!

England Women give the scrum machine a good work-out

Photo: RFU Archive

Away from the rugby pitch the girls kept themselves amused with a new ‘Rat Ball’ game. Basically, it’s hand tennis but the ball can't touch the ground. The person who has the ball must challenge someone else and then the winner keeps the ball and the loser gets knocked out.

My first challenge was from Maggie Alphonsi who I beat, much to her disgust. I then challenged Katy McLean and I lost, much to my disgust.

It was an evening off for the players and staff tonight so the staff went to a nearby Thai restaurant while the players took a trip to the cinema to watch Shrek 3, Get Him To The Greek and Eclipse. Rumour has it that our skipper, Catherine Spencer, went AWOL and snuck into Sex and the City 2.

Day Four – Final session and home

Just one session today, then lunch and a quick meeting and home. I took the lead with this session which is about collision management and ball security. The players arrived on time but looked knackered.

It has been a tough two weeks with only four days rest between camps. This group of girls don’t quit and once we were into the warm-up they were fully focussed.

The session went well, and finished with a very productive continuity channel involving a number of collision points, tackles, rucks, mauls and off-loads. Once again they show excellent physicality.