Sitting on your hands once your Super Rugby or Premiership/Top14/PRO14 team has ended their season, is not where players want to be. As teams are knocked out of the playoffs, there is nothing left to do but train, as leading players are in RWC build up mode.
For the best, those players that are established within national rugby teams, the upcoming Rugby World Cup (RWC) campaign becomes primary. Most players whose professional club/franchise falls by the wayside leaves there player roster with no specific goal….other than to go one of two ways.
The most common is for players who are not secure in knowing they are wanted for the higher honours, return to play club rugby. To go back to the grassroots you might say – and that is a terrific nod to the importance of that part of the sport.
Sonny Bill Williams is the highest profile player who has recently been given clearance to play for the Ponsonby Rugby club, in the Gallaher Shield competition.
— Newshub Sport (@NewshubSport) June 25, 2019
Others, with nothing left to do but train, will hit the gym, work on those programs given them by Conditioning coaches. To be fully prepared when the squads are brought together.
But, that could be days or weeks away for some. So, when permission is not granted for professional athletes to rejoin their clubs or province, it seems to be a shame. And is a limitation for professional athletes.
Nothing left to do but train; RWC build up
Some will still believe that being a paid sportsperson is the ‘good life’. Paid to play the game, and maybe unlucky if their team has not progressed to the final of Super Rugby. Unlucky is not the right term though. They are professionals, so one might say that their role has now changed.
The short term goal has simply changed. RWC build up now becomes a concentration. Not for the majority, but looking at the hundreds of players who will be focusing on RWC build up, not playing is an issue.
And while that can be mental as much as physical, players will be missing that weekly contact sport. And fans will be wary that some might develop some degree of rust [not playing].
With Northern hemisphere competitions in between seasons, few can go directly into camp so have sat idle for a number of weeks. Those players who are in contention for national team selection are especially wanting to be active, so having nothing left to do but train, is unlikely to maintain their edge.
In the Southern hemisphere, it has only been two weeks idle for many, or a week off for those who did not reach the semifinals. So, a trip to a sunny climate could have regenerated some energy from rest from rugby.
Training Camps designed to replicate Match Conditions
While opposed training sessions are good, they are only designed to mimic match conditions. A modern misnomer, that pro-rugby players cannot risk being injured by ‘not playing’.
Sonny Bill has been recovering from an injury, so with just the final round of Super Rugby with the Blues, means playing for Ponsonby is a step on his own road to full fitness.
Two trains of thought, but the hazard is that rugby players not only need to train. They need to keep up physical fitness – and playing is the best method to achieve that.
Hazards of ‘not playing rugby’ are two-fold
Risking an International player in a club rugby game – where the reward is not related to the national team’s objectives – can be a risk. Many players in the past have been brought down through club appearances, although in SBW’s case, Ponsonby might have a huge crowd when they play on Saturday.
Injury aside, training alone is little more than rudimentary exercise. Possibly working on targets or to reach a conditioning level yet, those are surely secondary to playing.
So for Owen Farrell (see main photo) or Michael Hooper, not playing is not ideal. They want that degree of contact, so each cannot wait for their respective head coaches to place their names on a list. And to bring them into camp.
Gym-related injuries are still possible, as is a slip on a banana skin, or even accidents riding bikes. If you are on holiday, a Jet Ski injury could end your RWC build up, so players do not risk they goals with foolish activities [you would assume].
Some national teams assemble on foreign soil; England Rugby travel to Portugal, where the isolation and focus can help develop positive culture. Although, as some England players found, after hours events can end their involvement, in a negative manner.
— Mirror Sport (@MirrorSport) August 7, 2017
With nothing left to do but train, it is a test of motivation. Setting objectives, meeting set measures – the beep-test might be the one that few enjoy – but necessary all steps towards September.
So while a few might enjoy a game here and there, most are just waiting to hear their names read out in a squad list. Then, it will be full-on towards International fixtures, friendlies and cross-Union clashes that will then be key RWC build up steps on the path to Tokyo 2019.
Follow team announcements and RWC build up news with Last Word on Rugby, leading into the 2019 Rugby Championship in July.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images