English rugby is known for doing things differently. Clive Woodward brought in experts for the mind and special eye workouts when he was in charge. Stuart Lancaster asked the player's parents to write to their sons and explain what it meant to play for England. Now the RFU have gone a step further with secret character-forming getaways.
The Times have revealed that the RFU have a secret squad of players. Three times a year the players receive a text on a Friday with a postcode in it. They have to get to that location by Sunday. Once they get there they undergo camps which could be anything from earthquake training, big-brother style houses or volunteering in schools.
The project is organised by rugby coach and former military member Dean Ryan. Ryan is now head of international player development with the RFU. The squad generally features youngsters, six of whom represented England during the summer tour against Argentina. Ryan told the Times it as a means to take players out of their comfort zone:
It's a disruptive programme. None of them stay in nice hotels, they often have to cook and self-cater. None of them get any of the celebrated elements of coming with another squad, they just come and they throw themselves into the challenge.
While easy to dismiss these methods, many successful coaches adopt alternative practices as the 'one-percenters' that can help aid development. Under Pat Lam, Connacht secured a miraculous PRO12 trophy. Suddenly his insistence that players carry a ball with them at all times with a message written on it and that everyone shakes hands at the start of the day were offered as explanations for his success.
It's clear there is thinking gone into the RFU's approach. Eddie Jones recently said he wanted his players ready for anything:
We want the players to be uncomfortable for the next two years so that when they get to the World Cup they will be prepared for anything. Prepared for North Korea to fire a missile, prepared for an earthquake, for bad sushi, for bad refereeing.
It doesn’t matter what happens, they will be ready for it.
It is interesting to see how they are going about ensuring that.
You can read the piece in full here.