Mark Atkinson, Jonny Hill and Will Stuart discuss being put under pressure in Jersey
England players react to Red Bull Stress Test
Daunting. That’s the word Will Stuart uses when asked for his first impressions of the Red Bull Stress Test the England squad faced in Jersey.
The players were fitted with GoPro cameras before heading to the ‘pitch’, so their reactions to the set-up on the beach could be captured – and the nerves definitely kicked in.
“We were dropped off a bit further down and then ran to the place we were doing it – it was quite daunting,” says prop Stuart.
Mark Atkinson, one of England’s newest caps, adds: “Coming over the rocks and seeing the pitch was pretty special, but we had no idea what was to come.”
So what was to come? Well, there was a competition involving four teams of players racing each other by moving a 150kg tyre up and down the pitch twice, as well as a second challenge where the whole group had to pull a 9.5-tonne Kamaz Master truck.
Related: Watch England take on Red Bull Stress Test
Jonny Hill is quick to mention that his team won – “We had Joe Marler and Manu Tuilagi,” he says by way of explanation. Were there any other players who particularly stood out? “Sam Underhill did really well – he’s a strong boy,” says Hill.
The trio also point out that Charlie Ewels was keen to stress his knot-tying credentials when it came to pulling the truck. Some players at the front of each rope tied it around their waist, others around their shoulders, and Ewels reportedly offered his services as a former scout and someone with a Level Three Powerboat licence!
While it was a unique challenge, they do recognise there are facets they can take into training and games. Hill talks of the “hard work element” while Atkinson adds: “The team-building part was good. A few boys stepped forward and came up with ideas, took a leadership role, and you had to think on your feet.
“Switching up the S&C was quite cool too. It can get a little bit samey through the season.”
Stuart concurs with that, saying: “Anything that freshens up S&C – fun is the wrong word, but different – is good.”
Jon Clarke, England’s head of strength and conditioning, believes the Red Bull Stress Test will be something players can draw on in rugby situations.
“We wanted a physical challenge, a mental challenge and something that brings them together, and I think they got all three,” says Clarke. “It was a tough, tough challenge to drag that tyre up and down in different ways, the mental side of it to keep going, and obviously they came together as a team.
“When you do something like this, you’re looking for a link back to the game. There was the physical, the problem-solving, the teamwork, the camaraderie. And strength and conditioning is a massive part of preparing the players. So this all just fits into the bigger picture of giving them something to recall in the game.”
Related: Inside England’s strength and conditioning programme
The England players also believe similar ideas could be employed by amateur teams. Okay, those Red Bull trucks are hard to come by but teams could use tyres or other heavy objects to create a challenge between small groups within the team.
“Obviously something done as a team can pull people together,” says Atkinson. “The closest teams have all gone through stuff together, shared experiences, so you can look back on that hard work you’ve all been through together.”
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