August 20th, 2006.
Waking up with
Last night All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, the Wallabies’ No 1 target, went to bed in a pair of tights. As Miriyana Alexander reports, this is just one of the strategies he uses to recover from his onfield hammerings.
When Richie McCaw wakes this morning, his 106 kg, 187 cm body will be bloodied and bruised his back laced with flesh sprig marks. He will have slept the night in a pair of “skins” –waist to toe tights that aid muscle recovery and reduce the aching in his legs. He will pay an early visit to the team doctor and his weary body will be rewarded with a gentle swim and a massage.
And then the rot will set in.
By tonight, the AB flanker and captain’s upper back and shoulders will be stiff. Getting out of bed on Monday after the team’s 20-hour trip to Johannesburg will be a considered process, another massage will be vital.
McCaw, 25, is a gifted athlete: rugby hoffins say he is one of the world’s best players. He is everywhere on the field, hurling himself at the opposition and being buried at the bottom of skeleton crushing rucks and mauls. He gets knocked down but he gets up again. We can only shake our heads and wonder how.
McCaw’s only concession to his efforts is that he leaves the field “totally shagged”. Trainers say it takes players two or three days to recover from the trauma of a game to train fully again, and at this point of the season their bodies are never pain free.
Ensuring players can perform again next week is the job of a behind the scene support crew –a physio, doctor, nutritionist, mental skills coach and strength and conditioning coaches.
Recovery begins immediately. In the dressing room, beer has made way for Powerade and protein shakes as players replace the up to four litres of fluid lost during the match. Sushi and sandwiches are also on hand.
Last night McCaw would have had a swim in the pool in the Eden Park changing room, and maybe a massage. He won’t eat immediately –“I can’t for a few hours, the blood seems to leave my stomach” –and he can’t sleep until about 3am because he is “so buzzed”.
Instead, the ABs sit down for a late dinner. It is a psychologically important part of their week, says team nutritionist Glenn Kearney.
“They have been under great pressure to perform and now it feels like the end of their working week. The food is fuel for the body to recover, but it is also about satisfying an emotional need.”
Wedges and crumbed fish join healthier options such as poached salmon; the players can eat what they like.
The rest of the week is about carbs, fluids and whole foods; the players consume about 5000 calories a day over three meals and a substantial post training snack. Kearney says nothing –“except tequila shots in the morning” –is banned, but players are discouraged from making too many unhealthy choices. A glass of wine or a beer with dinner each night is allowed, though that may change in the lead up to next year’s World Cup.
Occasional treats are permitted –the night before the game, players are handed a few squares of chocolate by their baggage handler. “It’s a way to pass on a bit of love”, says Kearney.
One of the team’s most important meals is also the most bland. Four hours before kick-off, it consists of mashed potatoes, spaghetti, grilled chicken and fish and is deliberately plain because the players are so anxious their digestive systems shut down. It is not unusual, says Kearney, for players to vomit up whole pieces of food just before a game.
Nutrition provides the fuel for the 20-plus hours a week the players train. Rugby skills aside, their individual programmes include a mix of weights, conditioning (running, boxing and cycling) and rehabilitation (yoga, pilates, stretching, swimming, walking and massage). At training, GPS systems strapped to the players’ backs monitor how far and fast they run.
So how long will McCaw’s body keep taking the punishment? He doesn’t know, but right now, almost at the end of the Tri Nations campaign, he feels good.
“I think the more rugby you play, the more your body just gets conditioned and learns to deal with the knocks.”
==> Pretty nice article which describes the routine of all the players (even if it officially focuses on Richie).
Yet, something is missing –as in many sports articles about the physical preparation –it doesn’t answer the big question : “Should the players “see” their wife/partner the night before the game or not ?” Because, “meeting” the partner was banned for a long time ; now, the trainers and coaches just say that it’s the player’s decision.
What is the ABs’ staff position on this issue??
==> Article assez intéressant, sur la préparation physique pré et post-match. C’est la routine de tous les joueurs même si, ici, elle n’est appliquée qu’à Richie.
Pourtant, une question reste en suspend (LE sujet tabou dans tous les articles sur la préparation des sportifs !) : « Doit-on ou non accepter les compagnes/épouses la veille d’un match ?» Eh oui, ces « rencontres » ont été proscrites pendant un sacré bout de temps ; aujourd’hui, il semble que les préparateurs physiques, entraîneurs, sélectionneurs,… laissent les joueurs choisir eux-mêmes.
Mais quelle est la position du staff des Blacks sur le sujet ???