England are going to new and interesting lengths in their preparations for this year's Six Nations championship. As the Guardian reports, the Six Nations champions' defence coach Paul Gustard has been training in MMA in the hope that some of the skills he learns will be transferable to Dylan Hartley et al in the run-up to the tournament, which kicks off on 4th February.
Gustard believes that he can teach the English players about aspects of MMA that will come in handy as they try and retain their title:
It’s about improving certain aspects around the contact area, around the maul, and about getting back to your feet post-tackle. It’s those sorts of skills that are innate in wrestling or a one-on-one combat sport and there are lots of things we can take from it. You always have to put it into the context of rugby, but it’s helpful to see how their bodies move and how they manipulate parts of the body to get out of contact.
Gustard admitted that certain elements of MMA "won't transfer" and said that it isn't just regarding the tackle that he hopes the training will make a difference:
It’s not just the tackle but also the system, trying drills and games I think might work and might elicit a certain response from the players or get a certain outcome.
England kick-start their Six Nations campaign with a game at home to France on 4th February and will be hoping to continue their good form from the Autumn Internationals (when they recorded wins over South Africa, Argentina and Australia).