England v New Zealand: A tough lesson in how to be an All Black

The Independent reveals some of their training secrets

A tale of two doors. The first one opens into the dressing room and in walks Kieran Read, the All Black No 8, 6ft 4in, 17 and a half stone, 61 Test matches for the world’s best team and, in many people’s eyes, currently the best player in the world.

“Hello, I’m Kieran,” he says, a big smile spreading across his face. Facing him are a Scotsman, Irishman and a Welshman, which may read like the first line of a joke but that is not the reason for Read’s smile. The thought of sending three representatives of the media out to face the All Black conditioning coach is the more likely cause.

“You play rugby?” he wonders. There is a collective gap of half a century between the collected fourth estate’s last appearance on a pitch – although Iwan Thomas, he’s the Welshman, can at least claim to have been a promising schoolboy rugby player before he discovered he was much better at running away from people than running into them.

The second door. Upstairs, I push it open and step outside into a bright autumn morning. The socks are black, the shorts are black, the shirt is black and on the left breast is the silver fern, one of sport’s most famous symbols. I feel good. I feel 6ft 4in. The words of Israel Dagg, the brilliant All Black full-back, ring in my ears: “Every kid grows up and wants to be an All Black. It is an honour to wear that jersey.”

A small boy is waiting outside to spot any of the All Blacks sprinkling a spot of sporting stardust in his corner of London. I puff my chest out. The boy turns and walks away. The woman from the Daily Mail starts laughing.

Waiting for us is Mark Harvey, or Harvs, one of the conditioning coaches, as well as Sam Cane, an All Black since the age of 20 and heir apparent to Richie McCaw’s shirt, and Aaron Smith, the livewire  No 9. I’m in Cane’s team but first Harvs has to warm us up.

There have been behind-the-scenes revelations this week about how the All Blacks are preparing for Twickenham with slogans demanding world domination. The Independent can now reveal some of their training secrets – a cunning use of “Simon says” and breaking off mid-sprint for breathless games of paper, scissors, stone. I’m not sure this information is of huge use to Stuart Lancaster but Smith is uber-sharp at paper, scissors, stone; typical scrum-half.

Harvs leads us around the pitch issuing instructions. The catch is if he doesn’t bark “Simon says” first and you follow the instructions punishment follows. The Independent is soon doing press ups. The black shirt, shorts and socks are not feeling quite so crisp.

Passing and kicking drills follow. Cane nods encouragingly as he plucks a kick out of the air with one hand. I screw a grubber kick wide of the target. “Come a bit closer, mate,” he instructs patiently. The next attempt flies wide of the other side and hits one of the onlookers. I finger a hamstring and look the other way.

But I have got off lightly. Across the other side of the pitch Read is taking Thomas for his own session for the benefit of a TV crew. Thomas is crawling along the ground. “No legs, no legs,” orders Read, the smile still there. Once Read is done Thomas is on his haunches.

What do you want from a modern rugby player, I ask Harvs. “Big strong fast and powerful, that’s what you want,” he says. It’s time to cover the shirt, time to get my coat.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf