School teachers and club coaches from Market Rasen and Sleaford were invited guests of Community Rugby Coaches Nathan Smith and David Cotton-Betteridge to Twickenham on Friday 16th February to watch England train in a rare open session at Twickenham stadium. Over 10,000 spectators attended the session which ran from 09:45 to 11:45. The team from Lincolnshire were treated on arrival with World Cup winning legend Jonny Wilkinson sharing his kicking expertise with the current goal kickers Owen Farrell and George Ford. The remaining squad players were all busy with their individual preparations before a very thorough and intense warm up period started shortly after 10:00am. Several clubs in Lincolnshire have now taken part in the Activate workshop and it was great for those present to see international players replicating this initiative.
Throughout the warm up period we were given a running commentary on England’s week including feedback on an intense couple of days training against Georgia. As the players left the field to hydrate and prepare for their main session the crowd were treated to Head Coach Eddie Jones taking 5 minutes to explain the format for the session as well as feeding back on why the players had warmed up in a specific way. Eddie explained in detail that the session would focus heavily on kick chase into defence and would last for exactly 40 minutes at an intensity higher than game pace.
As the words of Jerusalem rang out around the stadium the England squad re took the field, already split into teams and ready for what was certainly a frantic 40 minutes of activity. The players never stopped once as they covered every inch of the Twickenham turf, running, tackling, sprinting, kicking and replicating moves that they believe will see them undefeated throughout the current 6 Nations. For the second time in the day we met another World Cup winning legend as former back rower Richard Hill took to the mike explaining what the players and coaches were trying to achieve and the attention to detail was incredible. The training was refereed by world renowned ref Wayne Barnes and each player wore GPS trackers that Hill explained would be reviewed intently by the fitness experts attached to the squad. Whilst the warm up was done with England match balls from Gilbert the game was played with Scottish match balls ahead of England’s visit to Edinburgh.
Towards the end of the session the forwards and backs split after their 40 minutes and were joined in the stadium by His Royal Highness Prince Harry who spent time with Wilkinson and Hill before meeting a group of under privileged players who’d been invited to join some of the injured squad members. We didn’t join the massive queues for autographs but enjoyed listening to players being interviewed before eating lunch in the Twickenham Marriot Hotel and returning to Lincolnshire tired but full of new ideas.
Nathan Smith commented ‘ Our thanks to Mike, Tracy and NLD in general for their very kind donation of lunch and to Gareth Short for supplying our guests with a goody bag each.’