England back-row James Haskell has given a fascinating insight into the build-up of a typical England match in the lead-up to the Red Roses’ match against old rivals Australia.
In a column for The Sun, Haskell revealed the strange habit he has developed to keep himself sharp before the game kicks off, and it’s not something many players will have tried.
The column reads: “It’s game time. I’m standing in the tunnel at Twickenham and absorbing the tension and excitement spilling from the crowd.
“You feel the heat on your face from the flame cannons as you run out for the anthems.
“I’m buzzing from head to foot as I stand arm in arm with my mates, who I’ve grafted with all week, in an effort to get ready for battle.
“You roar out the anthem, prouder than you have ever been in your life, and you know this is the reason why you sacrifice a normal life and your physical well-being week in week out.
“I’m nearly ready but I need one kick before the battle. I always give myself three short jabs to the face. I don’t want to be caught cold. I want to already feel prepared for contact.”
He also talked about how he takes his mind off the pressure the morning of a game by completely ignoring any thoughts of rugby.
He continues: “I like to tidy my room before setting off for the stadium. I’m not there in an apron and a pair of marigolds scrubbing away - but just getting things in order and organised. Folding clothes, throwing out empty water bottles, double-checking my match bag.
“I clear my mind by making notes of what needs done in the week after the match. Just doing mundane things works for me. It’s all about conserving energy and not letting the tension get to you too early. You think about everything but the game.
“The bus to the game is a sea of headphones. I used to listen to music on the journey to the stadium but I always associate that with getting my game head on, so I’ve gone down a different route recently.
“I’ll watch some Alan Partridge, Yes Minister or Blackadder re-runs to keep my thoughts off the game and to not get too pumped-up too early.”
We’re now into the third week of autumn internationals, although England have just the one game under their belt to Australia’s two.
Last week’s fixture was a win at home against Argentina, while the Aussies have recorded back-to-back wins away to Japan (30-63) and Wales (21-29).
Although they have won both of their matches, their conceding of 59 points in the process suggests Australia’s offensive game is covering for a leaky defence.
That’s a stark contrast in numbers with England, who restricted Argentina to just eight points at Twickenham, a defensive performance they will no doubt look to replicate.
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