One of the most common questions asked of rugby players is how they got into professional rugby in the first place. Here at Keith Prowse, we have the inside scoop in finding out what it really takes to make it big in this glorious game. Read on to the get the lowdown…
Starting Them Young
Parents, you know how it feels when your children come home and say they want to take up a new hobby. In sport, this is actually the most common way to kickstart a career in rugby. There are a wide range of academies situated across the UK, that work with schools and clubs to identify and develop young talent. Academies give young athletes a great environment in which they can grow and where they can express themselves personally and professionally. Not only is exceptional rugby coaching provided, but players are taught the importance of responsibility, respect for themselves and the game, and high standards of integrity and performance are set.
Academies tend to offer a selection of teams to join depending on age e.g. U13s, U15s and U18s. This age structure system is clever – in earning a cap for one age group, youngsters are highly likely to progress to the next age range and gain good exposure to scouts i.e. one step closer to professional standards!
The Role of University Rugby
Furthermore, rugby advocates can attend colleges or universities with a strong background in the sport. Some of the most well-known regarding rugby presence are Loughborough University, University of Bath, Hartpury and Cardiff Metropolitan, who, alongside other UK universities, compete in the BUCs league (British Universities & Colleges Sport). For example, Hartpury boasts former alumni such as England’s star winger Jonny May, Wales and Lions wing Alex Cuthbert and Leicester Tigers’ powerhouse Ellis Genge. Exposure to the frontline allows for scouting through invitations from professional teams to train and play with them.
Training for National Teams
Once the scouted players are in, they’ll follow a strict training regime, including pre-season training, to ensure they are at the standard of their new club. There’s much variation in how long it may take a prospective player to go from bench to pitch, as this decision is in the hands of the coaches and may vary depending on the strength of the current squad in certain positions. In rugby union, a full squad consists of 22 players with seven serving as substitutions. There’s nothing wrong with being on the bench; in fact, a good use of substitutions can make serious impacts on the game. Bringing on a fresh pair of legs within the game can really change the squad dynamics and game tactics, so coaches must really think about this when selecting those who will feature in the starting line-up.
Three Golden Rules
Aspiring rugby players must keep three key points in mind if they really want to go from amateur to professional:
- Diet is important. This is a key consideration for any sportsmen wanting to go pro, and there is no exception for rugby players. Athletes must eat for recovery purposes, both during training or after a match, and for muscle growth/maintenance. Protein acts as the building block for said maintenance and development, therefore a daily protein target of 2.5-3g per kilo of bodyweight is recommended. Rugby consistently requires explosive power and strength, so complex carbs pre-training, high fibre foods and unrefined carbohydrates are vital to help absorption of sugar into the blood and avoid fat gain. Of course, hydration is key and is often overlooked – in fact, water is the most important part of the players’ diet! Dehydration actually causes huge risk to injury, whilst strength and speed reduce by 10% and 8%, respectively. Building healthy, sustainable habits in the kitchen will aid players in achieving the results they need to go pro.
- Fitness and training are powerful. Rugby players are always going into battle on the pitch, with high-impact tackles and great strain on the body. It is incredibly important for rugby players to meet such extreme physical demands; fitness attributes like speed, mobility and flexibility, agility, power and strength and both aerobic and anaerobic fitness are needed equip players for this intense sport, therefore training and fitness routines must focus on said attributes.
- Develop your skills and techniques. Players may follow strict diets and training regimes, however without a strong focus on the skills needed, these steps become invalid. Whether its developing new skills or improving old skills, all are imperative to master to become a professional at rugby. Passing techniques such as pop and spin passes, running techniques regarding multi-direction and acceleration, decisions around tackling and, of course, accurate communication with teammates are just some of the most important to consider. If you’re an aspiring rugby player, then make sure you nail these skills and techniques. You will certainly be on the right track!
Years of hard work and dedication will certainly pay off; England Rugby Hospitality Brand Ambassador, Ugo Monye, certainly stands by this. Monye picked up his first rugby ball when playing for his school at the age of just 13. 13 years’ worth of rugby practice later and Monye went on to experience one of the most special moments in his rugby career with an extraordinary try for the British and Irish Lions. In the third Test of the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa, the England back had a moment of magic in the 54th minute with a match-clinching 70m interception try. Monye put his head down and proceeded to sprint a whopping 40 metres without looking back – it probably took him no more than seven seconds! However, it was the seven seconds that truly defined his rugby career and meant that the Lions finished the Tour in style.
So there you have it, everything you need to know to help make it in the glorious game of rugby. Whether it’s finding that passion from an early age or getting involved in later years, everyone starts somewhere! But, only the most committed really make it big – there’s a lot to consider and a lot to balance to go pro…it really is no walk in the park!
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