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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss