We talked to Bath Rugby’s Matt Banahan and Charlie Ewels about their preparation for The Clash against Leicester Tigers on Saturday 8th April at Twickenham Stadium.
Matt you’ve played at Twickenham before for England, how will your experiences help your mental preparation?
I definitely think that playing at Twickenham is a major factor. Playing there before in big competitions for club and country will give me and most of the boys here an edge. If you’re familiar to the surroundings you play in, you can really focus on what you need to do for the team and what you have been doing in training during the week.
You have a big game against Brive before The Clash, how will you and the boys recover from these to be at your best for the Leicester game?
We will download the amount of running we do in the week and because we know we’ve got a short turnaround. We might do some extra recovery weights and flexibility work to help the blood flow and use our on-site ice bath here at Farleigh House. We look after ourselves and make sure that our legs are fresh as possible. It’s not only the week before that you are affected from, it’s the build-up too.
What does your gym routine look like in the build up to a game?
We work on six-week programmes and most of us have just started a new block of training. The start of the week are the heavier sessions with running/bike work and then as we tail off towards the weekend the carb intake goes up with energy expenditure going down. This ensures we have maximal freshness in our bodies for game day. On a Thursday we have power sessions, when we concentrate on more Olympic Lifting where we are looking to move the weight very quickly. These power sessions look at getting the muscles fired up without causing too much strain on the body.
Will you guys travel up the night before the fixture and what will be your pre-match meal the night before?
We will travel up on the Friday and be in the hotel from the afternoon. As soon as we are at the hotel our meals are managed by the Club with the use of the hotel catering facilities. Everyone has their own meal plans so there will be lots of options. As we are looking to fuel our bodies, we will eat a lot of carbohydrates the night before like pizza, pasta, potatoes etc.
What are you expecting from Leicester Tigers at The Clash?
We played them earlier in the season at Welford Road and we will be expecting the same. They always pick a very big side and will be very well drilled at their set piece. Me and the rest of the forwards will have to disrupt their platform. Tigers play a lot of same way phase play with big ball carriers, so we have to stop that momentum to win the match.
From a backs point of view they have some really exciting talent in their backline that can score from anywhere. As a back unit, we need to nullify that and covert our attacking opportunities where we can into points.
What insights have the new coaching staff of Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson added to the group in prep for The Clash?
They keep us very grounded, only focusing on week to week. The messaging is always around the team and making sure we are at 100% to play. If not, what can we do to get us there as a collective.
Do you set yourselves any personal targets on game days?
As I am getting a little older now I truly focus on enjoyment. I just want to enjoy my rugby now – if I play well, I play well and if I play badly, I play badly. I have been fortunate enough to play for 11 years now professionally so it’s about enjoying the time I have got left.
I am quite different to Matt, probably being in the forwards and the nature of my position I am much more process driven. I set my own individual targets and also targets focused around the team as well. A lot of my targets will stem from the focuses in the training week, ensuring I transfer that work to game day.