Reworded: In an effort to be the top team at Christmas, Bath’s Will Stuart is sleeping on the kitchen floor.
Numerous components are required for the creation of a top-tier global property. While strength is crucial, a drive for progress and the capacity to endure significant levels of discomfort are also necessary. Many front-rowers in England may not be shocked to discover that Will Stuart, a player for the national team, routinely sleeps on his kitchen floor in Bath after matches as part of his recovery routine.
Stuart is 27 years old but listening to him detailing his Saturday night after the recent home Champions Cup win over Ulster makes him sound much older. “A few of the lads went for a few beers but I was back-spasming on my kitchen floor with a heat pack on my back and a drip line of tea from my girlfriend.
“I recently moved in with her and she got a new mattress, but it’s too soft for my liking. As a result, I’ve been sleeping on the floor with a duvet and binge-watching Netflix for a few nights. My productivity has been affected as a result.”
The high-status world of professional sports can be quite glamorous. The positive aspect is that Stuart, who weighs 20 stone, was able to demonstrate his skills by giving a challenging time to South Africa’s skilled World Cup champion, Steven Kitshoff, who now plays for Ulster. Ironically, this Englishman had previously suffered a dislocated elbow against the same team at Twickenham 13 months ago. He found it satisfying to achieve dominant scrums against Kitshoff, considering that Kitshoff had done the same to him the previous November.
Looking at it from an English point of view, it was definitely a promising glimpse into their efforts to create a strong team for the 2027 World Cup. Although age is just a number, Kyle Sinckler will be 34 and Dan Cole will be 40 by then. Stuart is well aware of the opportunity he has to solidify his spot on the team, beginning with this season’s Six Nations.
There is also a renewed determination to atone for a “frustrating” personal World Cup whichthat did not pan out as he had hoped. “The World Cup was a missed opportunity for me. I had a couple of warm-up games where I played OK and one where I didn’t think I played my best. That’s your chance to really claim your shirt and I didn’t do that. I played in some of the group games and then missed out for the quarter-final and semi-final.”
It must have been difficult for him to watch from the sidelines as the Springbok “Bomb Squad” dominated England’s set piece in the World Cup semi-final. As a competitive athlete, he would have enjoyed the challenge and believed in his ability to make a difference. However, he also understood why Steve Borthwick chose to rely on more experienced players. The two have discussed this decision at length and continue to do so. He acknowledges that there are aspects of his game that he needs to improve upon, which he agrees with.
He doesn’t explicitly state it, but his lengthy and circuitous journey in rugby, starting from his early days at Andover and Salisbury to England Under-20s, Wasps, Blackheath, Moseley, Nottingham and now Bath, taught Stuart a long time ago that even the most skilled props who excel at carrying the ball can be replaced if their scrum is struggling. He learned that the tiniest technical details can have significant consequences if not executed correctly. “It may seem dull, but it’s crucial to focus on technical aspects like pre-binding, avoiding messiness, and not giving away unnecessary penalties or free-kicks, which are within my control. If I perfect my process, I have confidence in my ability to hold my own in scrums against any opponent.”
Despite Stuart’s impressive family background, with his grandfather and great-grandfather having notable careers in rugby and acting, respectively, it is his future that holds the most importance for him. While he is currently negotiating a contract with Bath, he has no intention of leaving England and giving up his dreams of playing for the national team. He sees this as a major draw and is content with what he has accomplished so far, but knows that there is much more he wants to achieve.
After the World Cup, my main emotion was frustration. Throughout my time with Bath and England, we have not performed at our best. I aspire to be on a winning team that competes for championships. Achieving this with Bath would be incredibly meaningful. And it also increases the likelihood of earning a spot on the England team.
Therefore, he was pleased to see Bath’s consistent progress leading up to their upcoming game against Harlequins and the possibility of facing his fellow England teammate, Joe Marler. The national team will likely be keeping an eye on their matchup, and Stuart, along with new teammate Thomas du Toit from South Africa, hopes that Kitshoff’s struggles in the previous month will not be a recurring issue. As a player, he always has confidence in himself, even when facing off against the formidable Springboks.
“Approaching a situation with a negative mindset, hoping to just get by and move on, is not the right mentality for this profession. You must face challenges head-on.”
Spending another Saturday evening on the kitchen floor will be worthwhile if the main player can assist in Bath’s climb to the top of the Premiership standings this holiday season.