How an elite team prepares for the match of all matches
With the Rugby World Cup final just days away, Ulrik Sandstrøm, Team Chiropractor at Leicester Tigers Rugby Club and member of the British Chiropractic Association, shares his insight on how England might be preparing for the big day…
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that many players will hardly get out of bed the day after an intense match like the semi-final we just had. The intensity of international games is 20-30% more intense than a week-to-week rugby match, even at premiership level.
“The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday would have been dedicated to letting the players rest as well as treating any injuries, and so maximising training opportunities throughout this week will be instrumental in making sure that all the players are strong and resilient enough to deliver their best performances on Saturday.”
“After Saturday’s explosive match, focus needs to be on rebooting – after a gruelling seven weeks, the team is just days away from the most important match of the entire cup. The days leading up to this match are the most crucial – all forms of training and wider support will make a key difference.
“Following a couple of days of light, low-intensity training and treatment, the players will today experience a full training session, testing their strength and conditioning to make sure they’re strong enough to deal with the impact of the next game.
“When it comes to strength and conditioning, the medical team has a very clear idea of the loads each player can handle, and so today will be about finding the balance where players are bearing enough to make them strong and resilient, but not so much that they get injured.”
“Today, the team’s focus will shift towards developing tactics and plays to help them beat their competition. This requires a thorough understanding of your team’s strengths and weaknesses – and the tactics they are likely to employ.
“These tactics will be in part forward dominated and power-based, but also reliant on the creation of space and use of pace. Outside of core training, the teams’ diet will be highly regulated to ensure maximum energy release, and players will be receiving additional care and treatments where required, which at Leicester can include anything from a light massage, to a combination of chiropractic and physiotherapy.
“The team will be put through moderate training on Thursday, as they gear up for the final. Players will be training at about a 60-70% intensity to help them prepare and also prevent injuries.
“A lot of people assume that stretching helps to prevent injuries, but it doesn’t. We don’t tend to stretch our players at all before a game or during training. Warming up – doing what you’re about to do at a lower intensity – however, is really important. Warm-up drills might be individual for each player, and they might all have their own routines or workouts.”
Often referred to as the ‘team run’, the players will be at the ground, familiarising themselves with the surroundings and walking through their plays. With the big game just a day away, they won’t be doing any high impact training that could overload them so much that they injure themselves.
The most common injuries in rugby – and when they tend to occur
“Because rugby is a running sport, you tend to see a lot more hamstring and groin injuries than you would in other sports. You also see more high impact injuries in rugby than in any other sport due to the nature of the game. I deal mainly with spinal injuries and complaints, so I personally see a fair few ‘stingers’.
“Stingers are essentially traction injuries of the nerve bundle coming from the neck and are usually caused by tackling someone. I’m finding myself getting more and more involved in concussion injuries too as they’re often neck related. I also see a lot of lower back disc issues as well as hamstring and groin strains which, interestingly, tend to originate from a lower back or pelvic issue that isn’t working correctly.
“Generally, most injuries occur in the game rather than training and particularly in the first part of the second half. So, between 40 and 60 minutes is the highest peak in injuries. I often put this down to the fact that players are fatigued because they’ve had a full first half and then 15 minutes of cooling down and then they’re straight back out, playing at full intensity again. A lot of our players will sit on static bikes keeping warm during half time to keep their legs ticking over as a preventative measure.
“What’s also interesting to note is that in game time, backs players tend to get more injuries than forwards. Whereas in training, forwards tend to get more injuries than backs. I think this is because in training the backs generally don’t get hit as hard as they would during a game, but forwards do get involved with live scrums, lineouts etc. which carry more risk.”