Rugby Union: The perils of peaking too early

Jonathan Davies is worried by the professionals who will soon be fit to drop

When Bath visit Pontypridd today in the European Cup, I shall be looking forward to this early chance to compare Welsh and English club standards and I'll be paying particular attention to the fitness levels.

This is not because as a newly retired player I want to make sure the lads are not slacking, I just want to confirm my impression that players are much fitter now than they've ever been at the start of a season.

From what I've seen up to now, I believe that to be the case and it worries me. There's every reason to be fit at the start of a season but there are only so many peaks a body can reach over a period of time and I wonder how they are going to maintain this level of fitness for a long and demanding season without doing themselves damage.

There was a time when clubs used to amble into action and gradually build up the pace through the autumn. If there was an international early in the season it was usually an occasion to get the rust out of the system. Those days disappeared with the arrival of the professional era and we have a right to expect a bit more urgency but the speed with which the new season has hit the ground running is phenomenal.

When Wales played Romania at Wrexham last weekend, September hadn't even arrived and yet the Welsh were in Five Nations fettle. Romania didn't stand a chance and the winning margin could have been 100 points.

I was delighted at the way Wales played. The forwards were very impressive, with some good ball-carrying skill displayed by Rob Appleyard, Barry Williams and Steve Moore. Skipper Gwyn Jones was an excellent link and the competition lining up for back-row places is heartening.

But it was only six weeks since Wales returned from their tour of the USA and Canada and for most of that time the players have been engaged in meeting very strict club training regimes. It took only one look at Cardiff's to convince me to call it a day. The same thing is happening elsewhere and I've been particularly impressed with the standard in the English clubs matches I've seen, particularly the ball retention skills. They haven't picked those up without plenty of graft.

England haven't played an international yet but they have three coming up in the next few months and the same applies to the other countries. Meanwhile, the top clubs have the European Cup and their own domestic competitions to contend with. We used to be able to rely on a few easy games but every fixture is a battle these days.

I fully realise the problems. The clubs have made big investments in their squads while the countries are increasingly aware that the 1999 World Cup is less than two years away but I do appeal to both to give some consideration to their most important assets. It is impossible to play all-year rugby without high risk of a major injury.

Twice I attempted to play rugby for 20 months non-stop and twice I caught the backlash. In 1991, I squeezed in a summer playing for Canterbury Bulldogs in Australia between two seasons for Widnes. In 1995, I spent the summer playing for North Queensland and in the following winter moved from Warrington to Cardiff rather unexpectedly. On both occasions the strain of not taking a rest resulted in a hernia operation.

Fitness is king in rugby at the moment. But hard training without proper rest is counter-productive. Not only does regular rest prevent physical fatigue, it prevents mental tiredness. I must emphasise that the main problem is not the playing but the amount of training - that's what did for me and it'll ruin many more. In my opinion, enthusiasm is still as important as any facet of professional sport and I am not sure that the game has cottoned on yet.

As for myself, I have started light training but I am not ready yet to play the fun rugby I mentioned last week. I've already had a few invitations to turn out including one for Crawshay's XV in Cornwall next week. I've had to turn it down, I'm afraid. Even Frank Sinatra left his comebacks a bit longer than a fortnight.

News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
business
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Frozen out: despite being filmed in Iceland, 'Fortitude' is set further north, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
tvGerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Life and Style
Carmen Khu from The Royal China Club pours a cup of Dai-Hong-Po tea
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£17 - £20 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owned and c...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore