Sur­viv­ing Ed­die’s tough regime How coach pushes bound­aries

Danny Care exlu­sive col­umn,

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - DANNY CARE

Ed­die Jones was very clear from day one that this World Cup would be won by the fittest team. Go­ing into the last tour­na­ment four years ago, we did a train­ing camp in Den­ver that I thought was the worst thing ever. Lit­tle did I know that train­ing un­der Ed­die would be even more bru­tal. The ses­sions are shorter, but a lot sharper. A lot of the time it is just about sur­vival.

He was one of the first coaches to raise the in­ten­sity of train­ing be­yond what it would be in the game. A lot of time is spent on the anal­y­sis of me­tres per minute, how hard you are work­ing and your ex­plo­sive sprint distances, which is when you are run­ning flat out.

Some­times you are do­ing 150-160 per cent ex­plo­sive sprints over what you would do in a match dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion, which may be only 30-40 min­utes. So when it comes to a game, you know you can do it and you know you can recover from it.

Un­for­tu­nately, that has broken a few play­ers. When you are train­ing at that in­ten­sity and you throw in con­tact, then in­juries are in­evitable. As a player you are al­ways con­cerned. There are times when you just want to sur­vive. It sounds aw­ful, but you just want to get through the ses­sion and hope it is not you who picks up the in­jury.

Ed­die was al­ways very clear that we had to push the bound­aries.

Be­cause Eng­land have such a large play­ing base, then it may have been a case that they think, “If one breaks there are three or four who can come in”. Some coun­tries do not have that depth. At times you got the feel­ing the at­ti­tude was that if one goes down then there will al­ways be an­other cab off the rank.

If you want to make an omelette then you have to break some eggs. At times as a player, you re­alise you are a pawn. Ev­ery­one is dy­ing to get in there be­cause it is such an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to play for Eng­land and you know if you are the one who goes down then there will be some­one else who can take your spot.

Ed­die’s other big em­pha­sis was on what he calls re­form and reload, which is how quickly you get back on to your feet af­ter you make a tackle. It is like a men­tal trig­ger that as soon as you have done one ac­tion or one im­pact – no matter whether it was good or bad – you need to be ready to do the next one. Ed­die would show clips of New Zealand and how they made a tackle and got back in the game the next phase. We al­ways knew that was the gold stan­dard and that we had to be bet­ter than that to beat them.

The goal was to be back on your feet within three sec­onds. If you man­age it that is a plus, if you do not then it is a mi­nus. You will then get an over­all per­cent­age based on what you do in a ses­sion. If you get seven pluses and three mi­nuses then you are on 70 per cent, which is not good enough. Ed­die wants ev­ery­one over 90 per cent. There will be times in train­ing or in games where peo­ple hold you down and he still wants you to fight your way out of that and get back on your feet.

Af­ter every ses­sion, your scores in attack and de­fence would be put up on a board and on TVS showing where you ranked and whether you were in the top or bot­tom half.

I have been in that bot­tom half be­fore and it is not a place you want to be. You cer­tainly do not want to fin­ish last. That is when you see play­ers train­ing in pink or gold bibs. That shows you are the per­son who has not worked hard enough off the floor and that you are let­ting the team down.

It is like mus­cle mem­ory; if you do that in train­ing then you learn to do that in a Test match, where it re­ally counts. That is why you see peo­ple such as Maro Itoje rac­ing up off the floor and run­ning that back-against-the-grain line to score against Ire­land.

That is also why Ed­die is so good at what he does. He is on you every time to do it be­cause there is that one time there might be a de­fender be­ing slightly lazy and be­cause you have worked harder than him you can break that tackle. That might be the op­por­tu­nity that wins you the game.

There is a psy­cho­log­i­cal el­e­ment to push­ing that hard be­cause he wants to see who wants it the most. There are times when you are in­volved in a ses­sion and you think it can­not get any worse and some­how it does. He al­ways says to you: “We don’t know how far you can go, you don’t know how far you can go, so let’s just give it a crack and see.” He tells us, “I guar­an­tee you will find a way to get that” and you do. As play­ers you would ob­vi­ously like it to be eas­ier be­cause you do not en­joy that pain of get­ting flogged every day, but you com­pletely un­der­stand the need for it.

There re­ally is no hid­ing place or short­cuts that you can take. When we were in Ar­gentina a cou­ple of years ago, we did urine tests every morn­ing to see how hy­drated we were. Ed­die said if you are not hy­drated enough, you will not train. We all thought, ‘Oh yeah, that won’t hap­pen’.

One morn­ing Ja­mal For­drobin­son turned up quite de­hy­drated and he was banned from train­ing. He just got told to stay in the ho­tel. Be­fore, an­other coach would have let it slide, but Ed­die will call you out and say you are let­ting the team down by not get­ting yourself as pre­pared as you should be to train.

I know the boys have worked in­cred­i­bly hard this sum­mer and you saw how great they looked against Ire­land. They are in amaz­ing shape. All that hard work does pay off.

I am sure they were all re­lieved to get on the plane to Ja­pan, but I think the main feel­ing will be pride. Un­for­tu­nately I never got to ex­pe­ri­ence get­ting on a plane to go to a World Cup af­ter I got in­jured in one of the fi­nal warm-up games in 2011.

In­jury struck again two weeks ago. It all hap­pened pretty quickly. One of the lads fell on my an­kle on the Wed­nes­day, I went for a scan that af­ter­noon, saw the spe­cial­ist the next day and de­cided we would have the op­er­a­tion last Mon­day. I have been told it is six to eight weeks, but I am a quick healer.

Has the Eng­land door com­pletely closed? I will be work­ing my tail off to get back fit as soon as pos­si­ble for Har­lequins and, if I am back fit and they needed me in the knock­out stages, then I would be there. I am an eter­nal op­ti­mist. Look at Stephen Don­ald play­ing in the 2011 World Cup fi­nal. You never know.

There are times in a ses­sion when you think it can­not get any worse and some­how it does

Hard graft: Danny Care dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at Pen­ny­hill Park

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