England and Lions lock Geoff Parling is one of the elder statesmen of the Stuart Lancaster's squad. Here he explains how he prepares in Test week
After the misfortune of a knee injury just days before England‘s game in Cardiff, Leicester Tiger lock Geoff Parling is back in the squad for the visit of Scotland on Saturday. Here he goes into detail about his preparation for games and namechecks the best locks in the business…
“In camp everyone has their own specific training schedules but in the forwards there is some crossover. However someone like Billy (Vunipola) might not have to do as many weights as the rest of us, but he’ll do more fitness top-ups, whereas people like myself don’t do so much fitness but do more weights top-ups. It’s not positional, more an individual thing.
“We are measured on the yo-yo test or watt bike but if I’m doing fitness work, I don’t do long sessions at one pace. It’s more blast-recover, blast-recover which is more relevant to playing. I like to concentrate on core fitness and lower-limb strength, which is hugely important for locks. That doesn’t just apply to the work around the park, but the scrums, mauls, pick and go’s, and taking the ball stationary. That’s where you’ll feel the benefit of mixing your training up.
In a match, I’m told I cover around 8km and work as hard as I can for the team. Most of us forwards enjoy tackling and want to make as many as we can.”
Doing the extras
“Something we like doing with England is mixing it up. So after a session we’ll do short little pop-ups, ruck work, an attack session, weights, footwork – just keep on learning. All the time you’re reinforcing what you’ve taken on board keeping the basics fresh in your mind.”
“I generally use a laptop to do my research on the opposition players. It’s now a fundamental part of the game, but I don’t like to get carried away with the stats. It’s best to assess the opposition game by game. You do a bit of analysis in your own time but the main focus is what you’re doing and your team.”
“With hours to go, the backs and forwards get together. We’ll talk about specifics. Myself and the locks will talk about lineout moves and the fatties in the front row will be talking about the scrum issues. On the morning of the game, you’ll go for a wander, and if there’s any last minute issues you want to talk through, that’s the time to do it. You’ll do a walkthrough of the lineout. At that stage it’s just fine tuning. After that, you’re together as a team and once you’re in the changing room, it’s game on!”
“Firstly, you always blame the hooker if something goes wrong. Seriously, if I’m calling the lineout, I’ll be looking at the oppositions defence and reacting to what they’re doing. You’ll go through your processes. Are your feet in the correct position? Remember drive the hips through on the engage. It’s the little things you need to get right, especially when there’s extreme fatigue or pressure.”
Best in the business
“The position has evolved and what you’re getting now is hybrid locks. Look at Brodie Retallick, he’s not overly tall or muscular. He’s a mix of both; he does his set-piece work and his work all over the field. There are still enforcers like Jamie Cudmore and Bakkies Botha but there’s more variety now.
“I’ve faced a lot of good locks over the years. Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock were a very good pairing. They were a pain to play against. Grewy had a very good set-piece and his ball carrying was direct. I enjoyed playing against Nathan Sharpe. He was the glue for the Wallabies and just did it time and time again. He had so much experience. Andy Boost at Newcastle was the guy l looked up to as a kid and he turned into one of my best friends in the game. Aerially, chasing the kick-offs, Retallick is superb. He has a great engine on him too. As for Paul O’Connell, he has an aura about him. You can’t describe it. He’s a Test match animal. He’ll never take to losing. Ever.
Geoff Parling wears the Canterbury Mercury TCR Range. Visit Canterbury.com to show if you’re #CommittedToUnion