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"Exploring the depths: Aled Walters assists England in delving further down"
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⠀ “Exploring the depths: Aled Walters assists England in delving further down”

Rewind the clock to just under a year ago and England players were heading back to their clubs with their tails between their legs after consecutive defeats to France and Ireland and having been chastised by Steve Borthwick for not being fit enough. The head coach’s concern was the shape in which they arrived at the start of the Six Nations and he made it clear to his troops that England would not be able to waste time focusing on fitness when they began World Cup preparations.

The charges against Borthwick were not well-received by the clubs, but his point was clear – he had no authority over his players outside of their commitments to the national team. Looking at the current state of England, there is no longer a worry about their physical condition. In fact, based on their performance against Ireland and how they closed out the game, it seems to be a strong suit.

The most noticeable difference is the addition of Aled Walters as the leader of strength and conditioning in the previous summer. During the World Cup, he explained that the unsatisfactory results in the warm-up games were a result of the new fitness program he implemented to prepare the team for the actual competition. As England gears up to end their Six Nations tournament in a strong manner against France this weekend, Walters, who is from Wales, has looked back on the enhancements that have been achieved.

Walters praised the team’s attitude during the summer, stating that they were dedicated to improving themselves. He suggests that Steve’s criticism during the last campaign may have motivated them. Being criticized for any aspect, whether it’s attitude, fitness, or reaching their full potential as a Test player, is never desirable. Therefore, Walters commends the players for their hard work and determination throughout the entire season.

As we observe the successful performances of our clubs in Europe, it appears that there has been a noticeable change. Upon seeing new players join, I was impressed by their readiness for Test matches. Another factor is the approach taken towards training. We have been training at a sufficiently high level to improve, but we have also been mindful of recovery time – properly allowing our players to recuperate and utilizing rest periods effectively – which has ultimately aided our ability to excel.

Walters discusses potential cooperation with the clubs, which is encouraging as the Rugby Football Union’s blended contracts are intended to give Borthwick and his coaching team more influence in player conditioning than they currently have. Specifics are still unclear and the clubs’ lack of knowledge about what concrete changes will be implemented is worrisome, but the restructuring of the Premiership season after downsizing to 10 clubs seems to have had a positive effect.

Aled Walters (left) works with Joe Marler in training

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“When you’re coming from a Premiership season and European games, they are tapering into those games to freshen up and get those performances just before those games start,” adds Walters. “But the information that we’ve had from the clubs, the collaboration and the relationships that are developing are, I think, good. That allows the players to come in in a good position.”

Eddie Jones enjoys increasing his percentage gain, while Walters is more cautious. However, whether it’s Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s impressive speed of over 10 meters per second on Saturday, or Ollie Chessum’s average score of 5:20 for 3 minutes on a WattBike, which puts him ahead of his Leicester teammate George Martin, Walters, who was part of the 2019 World Cup-winning team for South Africa, is happy with the progress he sees.

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Ben Earl bursts through a tackleView image in fullscreen

“Looking back at South Africa’s numbers a few years back, I feel we are currently in a favorable position,” he stated. “Saturday’s game was full of positive energy, which was great to see. It’s probably the most satisfied I’ve been since joining the England team. We were able to maintain a high level of energy and handle whatever challenges Ireland threw at us, quickly bouncing back from them.”

Ben Earl, the standout player for England in their wins against Wales and Ireland, is now seeing the benefits. While always confident, the 26-year-old has publicly set the goal of becoming a “world class” back-row player and is proving it with his on-field displays.

“I thoroughly immersed myself in the project I worked on at the club, as well as with Aled, before and during the World Cup,” explains Earl. “I believe that the hard work paid off during that campaign and it continues to benefit me here.”

As we approach the final 10 or 15 minutes of a game, as long as we are still competitive, we have the physical fitness and a strong bench to turn the game around and secure a victory. This is definitely one of our team’s strengths.

Source: theguardian.com