England’s specific conditioning work for the altitude and hard pitches of South Africa has already begun with a three-day mini-camp at Pennyhill Park this week.
Three of England’s five matches are at altitude this June – the Test match in Johannesburg (June 16) and midweek games in Kimberley (June 13) and Potchefstroom (June 19) – which presents a different challenge for the fitness team.
Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has instilled a mentality of finishing the season on June 24 and that starts with ensuring the physical demands of a tour to face the Springboks does not come as a shock to system.
Explaining that everyone is aware the rigours of five matches in 21 days in South Africa is a step up, Senior National Fitness Coach Calvin Morriss said: “We’re doing altitude specific work through this week, the Barbarians week and even doing some when we’re in South Africa.
“It’s as much to prepare the guys for what it’s going to feel like as opposed to the physiological benefits from doing the work itself. And hopefully if the British weather sorts itself out we’ll play on some harder grounds and get the guys feeling like they’re running really quickly, which is the benefit of the type of grounds they’ll be playing on.
“We’re in a non-pressured environment here so we can make it a bit more fun if we wish, or we can make it a little more intense than a normal week’s training would be at this time of year but essentially, it’s keeping the rhythm of intense work in their bodies so when we get out to South Africa it is not going to be a shock.
“It’s a step up too. They’re training as hard as they need to train and playing with the intensity they’re going to need to match and hopefully beat the Springboks.”
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Stuart Lancaster named his squad for the Killik Cup clash against the Barbarians on Sunday, May 27 at Twickenham Stadium and three of his additions – Exeter Chiefs scrum half Haydn Thomas, London Irish flanker Jamie Gibson and Gloucester Rugby’s Freddie Burns – have also been involved.
There are 13 uncapped players in the 42-man group for South Africa and although the players from Aviva Premiership semi finalists Leicester Tigers, Harlequins, Saracens and Northampton Saints were not involved, Morriss feels the camp is also useful to integrate the new players in to their established team culture.
Morriss, who has been with the RFU for nine years, added: “Another good reason for this kind of camp is that we’re able to get to know one another a bit better. We’ve got low numbers, 10 or 12 lads, and we’ve put on the kind of sessions which means they’ve got to do that.
“The young lads energise the group with the effort they put in out there, we perhaps need to get a bit more chat out of them but that will come as they become more comfortable.
“The Six Nations was a really enjoyable period, the work ethic from the players made it that way, how hard they wanted to train, how much they wanted to win and compete for each other. It does rub off on the whole squad and we were all chomping at the bit to get back in.”