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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week