David Flatman: It's straight back into the thick of it for England boys

From the Front Row: No rest for the World Cup players as club duty calls but they wouldn't have it any other way

Turn on the news and, within a minute or two, you'll hear a story that puts your own little grumbles into perspective. Remind yourself that you're relatively fit and healthy and, suddenly, you might stop whingeing about that sore back and cursing the office's ergonomics team for not arriving sooner with that special chair. Remember how much money you receive every month for doing what you do and your tendency to bemoan the odd managerial decision may dwindle.

However, despite the omnipresence of tangible perspective, I am actually staggered by how little rugby players moan these days. I remember finishing my first season with Saracens in 1999 – yes, your maths are correct and I was 12 years old – and being told we all had six weeks off. Three minutes after that meeting had concluded, George Chuter – my new housemate and general dad – informed me of my selection for a lads' reconnaissance trip to a Greek resort that I now know never to visit again.

So I called my dad, got the money, packed my gumshield and headed for the airport. We returned a week later burned, dehydrated, exhausted and totally ebullient. Rugby was, for the first time in a long time, forgotten. I then flew out on a family holiday and proceeded to deepen my burn, eat lovely food and sleep till noon.

After a month we all felt sufficiently fat that we began hitting the gym in light preparation for pre-season training – but in our own time, which, for the usually strictly directed rugby player, seemed a treat in itself. The next year, though, I was selected on my first international tour. That was where the lazy summers stopped. I haven't had one since.

And although they never, ever seem to moan, I don't know how the current crop of international players do it. As our domestic season drew to a close last May we were given a few weeks to rest, but accompanying that news was a folder full of physical targets to be achieved before presenting ourselves for boot camp.

If this seemed tough, the England boys were straight – like the next day – into World Cup preparation. And I happen to know that it was quite brutal. So they spent roughly five months working like dogs, launched into a series of Test matches and, about 10 days after their tournament ended, were expected to be playing for their clubs. No six weeks off, no lads' trips away, no lazing by the pool.

I know, I know, professional rugby provides a nice little life and, really, there is nothing to complain about. But this isn't a complaint. I recall having coffee with the great Richard Hill as a young Saracen, and him telling me under his breath that he hadn't actually had a break in three years. He never lacked motivation – not for a second – but even I could tell he was a bit dead behind the eyes.

We were only halfway through the club season and he was yawningover lunch, covered in strapping and struggling in the gym. His body was screaming for a break, as was his subconscious. But there was anothercompartment of his psyche that refused to give voice to the demons chattering at him day and night: he had to plough on. That weekend we played Leicester and won. Hilly was almost inhuman that day; it might still be the best performance I have ever witnessed.

At one stage, after a particularly enormous hit on Martin Corry, we – his own team-mates – actually applauded him. Like many of today's top players, Hill was staunch until the end, unblinking and seemingly immune to the otherwise ineluctable forces of physical and mental fatigue.

These guys ask not for pity, they just get up and go to work. This is what it takes, and we wouldn't change it.

News
Lily Allen performs on stage at Splendour In the Grass 2014 on 27 July, 2014, in Byron Bay, Australia
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
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

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin