The Six Nations Championship is back and fans have plenty of high-octane viewing action to look forward to over the next six weeks as Wales seek to defend their title against the onslaught of the England, France, Ireland, Italy and Scotland. .
“It’s almost like going to war with someone,” says Harlequins of England player and founder of sports recovery brand MyoMaster, Joe Gray, of professional rugby experience. “There’s nothing quite like preparing to fight monstrous human beings on the other team.”
But you don’t need to compete at the highest level to reap the rewards of this fast-paced sport. Ahead of the Six Nations opener between Ireland and Wales, we ask two players to tell us about all the ways rugby can improve your body and brain…
Strength and speed
“Rugby is one of the most complete sports,” says former semi-professional rugby player, personal trainer and movement specialist Tom Cuff-Burnett. “Because you need speed, strength and power.”
Anyone who decides to play the sport recreationally can expect to see a huge increase in cardiovascular endurance, he says, especially if you’re competing in full 80-minute matches. Also, there are “a lot of twists and turns, multi-directional stuff in rugby. So in terms of overall stability and balance, it contributes to all facets of physical competence.”
And you don’t need a huge, muscular physique either, says Gray: “You’ve got little skinny wingers, and you’ve got taller people in the front row – it covers all body shapes, all positions. , all styles and all genders and ages too.
Cuff-Burnett adds, “I’m only five feet tall on a good day. When people say you’re too small to play rugby, it’s because they don’t know rugby well enough.
Passing and kicking are an integral part of rugby, but don’t worry if you think your coordination skills aren’t up to snuff.
“When I was 15, I wasn’t a very good thrower,” says Gray, who as a hooker is required to throw the ball into the lineout. “And then I was taught throwing technique and it all depended on time and practice. I believe you can become good at anything if you have the right tools and the right mentality.
Teamwork is the source of a dream job
“The most important thing to me, and what I would love my little boy to get into rugby for, is the team spirit and the friendships you create,” says Gray. “Because it really creates lifelong bonds.”
He thinks winning often comes down to “the culture and a tightly-knit group that is very successful, rather than individuals.”
On the pitch, rugby can seem like a brutal, no-prisoners game; off the pitch it’s a different story.
“You see it when you watch professionals play,” says Cuff-Burnett. “They fought for 80 minutes in fierce sport and then at the end it was all handshakes and hugs. I just had a little boy and I obviously want him to get into sport, but the main thing for me is just the social aspect. And I think rugby goes beyond any other sport I’ve played in that regard.
Gray agrees: “What rugby has always been famous for from when I was an under-eight player until I was 33 is that you shake hands after the game, do a tunnel and then you have a beer.”
Touch rugby is just as fun
If you find all the weaves and passes seem like fun, but scrums and tackles worry you, try non-contact rugby instead.
“It’s a simplified version, so there’s no danger of contact, if you’re afraid of that aspect,” says Cuff-Burnett. He recommends In2Touch as a good starting point. “Once you feel like getting into contact stuff, just go to the RFU website (Englandrugby.com). There are many social teams that play in leagues.
Gray adds, “You can do touch tournaments or go play local touch games. They will usually have all age groups – minis, juniors, men, women, old boys…”