Nick Easter and James Haskell get to grips with the new training technique - wrestling

England have introduced a new training method during pre-season in a bid to get in tip-top condition for the World Cup, writes Bea Asprey.

The 45-man squad has been taking part in wrestling sessions under the direction of Paul Stridgeon, an ex-wrestler who is the RFU’s head of strength and conditioning.

Rugby and wrestling require common skills and techniques, and similar exercises are useful for conditioning the participants of both sports. Back-rower James Haskell has been relishing the sessions, which he says are both enjoyable and a useful training tool.

“I had been wrestling and doing some mixed martial arts for eight or nine months, so I was familiar with the concept when the England coaches introduced it to our training programme,” says Haskell. “It’s great fun and as well as being beneficial for your technique and conditioning, it brings a different element to our training. It also gets very competitive which all rugby players love.”

The squad took part in two 35-minute sessions a week for three weeks, and dropped to one session after that to allow more time for rugby sessions. However, it will remain a focal point for their training camps throughout August.

Haskell continues: “The sessions are physically demanding. You get very out of breath and your heart-rate goes through the roof. Our sessions are always in a hot marquee!”

If you want to improve your technique for tackling and clearing people off the ball, this is a great activity for you. It teaches you how to manipulate an opponent’s body, and get into a position where you’re dominant at the breakdown and in tackle situations. Tackling and ruck and maul situations are similar to what you may encounter in a wrestling match, and it also trains you to operate at a low centre of gravity.

Haskell explains: “We warm up with drills or technical work, and then concentrate on one aspect, such as splitting your feet or getting low to the ground, working one-on-one with a partner. We’ve used different techniques for clearing out rucks, done some grappling, and worked with dummies, driving them back and putting them down.”

Check out the squad during their pre-season training session…

This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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