Verge Meets: Tom Mitchell, Harry Glover and Will Muir – England Rugby 7s

Q: So Will, tell me what is your best advice to university students when it comes to strength and conditioning?

W: I think being a university student just over a year ago, it’s important to get the balance right between your lectures and rugby commitments, but at the same time, your strength and conditioning are quite pinnacle for your rugby progress, so you’ve just got to get your time management going well.

H: I have actually just finished university about 4 months ago, I was at Newcastle University and graduated in May so my advice would be to get into a routine. At Uni, there are obviously a lot of distractions and the emphasis is on studying, but if you have a good routine then you will be able to get through the bulk of the S & C which you have to do if you are a professional athlete. So there is time to do it and if you have a good routine that would be the best way.

T: I think for university students, it’s juggling the day to day of  uni, which obviously includes normally going out, socializing a lot  with your training. When I was at university trying to take my  training seriously at the same time as throwing myself into everything  else, you just have to pick and choose where you’re gonna make the odd  little sacrifice. Sometimes that means getting up much earlier than  you have to if you want to get a session in, and sometimes it might be  missing the odd night out. I think it’s all about balance, especially when you’re environment  like university, when there are so many opportunities to explore  different activities, meet loads of people. It’s understanding how  your training fits in with the balance of, of the rest of your life.  Because otherwise your training can become a little bit of a burden,  and that’s the last thing you need to add in when you’ve got the  stresses of your study and or social stuff as well as going on.

 

Q: What university did you  to go to?

T: Bristol for three years from my undergrad and then at a year Oxford  after that.

 

Q: Did you find it difficult at times?

W: Yeah, it was, especially with my course. We had a lot of experiments and lab work to do in chemical engineering, but you can always find a few hours here and there to squeeze it in – it’s quite important.

H: I had to come back from the England 7s squad quite a lot so there was a lot of travelling and obviously they gave me programmes to do which I did with the uni team up there, but it was a really good time.

 

Q: Brilliant. Just going on a bit more to rugby now. Do you have any pre-match rituals to prepare you for a game?

W: To be honest, not really. Often when I’m running on for the game to start, I like to do a little jump and spin round, just for the atmosphere. To see the crowd and to see the stadium and sort of soak it all in while I can really before we get to work.

H: I do have a couple, I always put my right boot on before my left, leave them untied, then tie them up about two minutes before we go out. Obviously, with 7s we play 6 matches over the weekend so it is quite hard to keep that up the whole weekend but if I take my left boot off, then I have to do the same with the right boot so it’s a bit weird but it is in my head now, so it’s fine.

T: I don’t have any strict rituals. I think I try and stay away from  too many. I gave up superstition a couple of years ago in general, so  I don’t really have any superstitions, although I do still travel with  a pair of my lucky socks in my bag, which I never work cause they’re  way too small. I’ve had them for like 20 odd years, but I do still  travel with those. So that’s the only superstition I’ve held onto. I guess my pre-match ritual kind of starts when we, cause obviously we  have gaps of sort of three to four hours sometimes between games, so  you rest and it’s when you’re trying to kind of revive yourself to  start preparing for the next game. Maybe about an hour or so before  the kickoff and you just kind of either get up from lying down or  whatever you’ve been doing. Someone will put some music on and it’s  almost just about getting moving and often that looks like a bit of a  dance, which is kind of a bit of a weird thing to say, but sometimes  if someone gets something with a bit of a beat, it’s just a nice way  of getting your energy going.

 

Q: If you don’t mind me asking this question, if I can, I’m just interested: What has been, you don’t have to say who, but have you seen any crazy pre-match rituals that someone does or any superstitions?

W: You’ll see a few lads, now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ve noticed, that like to put a certain sock and shoe on in the same order. Every single time before a game, you’ll see them putting the left on every single time, lacing it up and then putting the sock on the right sort of thing, but just little things like that, you don’t really notice.

H: A lot of the other guys have different match rituals; some people read through stuff from their loved ones or some people write on their wrist to remind them, so when they are in the match they can refer to it and it will keep them going. There are a lot of weird ones – Will always has to go to the loo before the first match!

T: I don’t have any strict rituals. I think I try and stay away from  too many. I gave up superstition a couple of years ago in general, so  I don’t really have any superstitions, although I do still travel with  a pair of my lucky socks in my bag, which I never work cause they’re  way too small. I’ve had them for like 20 odd years, but I do still  travel with those. So that’s the only superstition I’ve held onto. I guess my pre-match ritual kind of starts when we, cause obviously we  have gaps of sort of three to four hours sometimes between games, so  you rest and it’s when you’re trying to kind of revive yourself to  start preparing for the next game. Maybe about an hour or so before  the kickoff and you just kind of either get up from lying down or  whatever you’ve been doing. Someone will put some music on and it’s  almost just about getting moving and often that looks like a bit of a  dance, which is kind of a bit of a weird thing to say, but sometimes  if someone gets something with a bit of a beat, it’s just a nice way  of getting your energy going.

 

Q: Yes, that seems to be a thing about sports players, they can do that. So how do you relax and wind down after a big tournament?

W: Well most of the time get together as a team and go out for some food. We’ll probably pick a restaurant that we’ll all go to together and it’s a good way to reflect a bit, but unwind away from the rugby and just let our hair down and have a good meal – a bit of recovery.

H: It’s quite nice doing the big lap of honour at the end of the weekend to see the fans and quite a lot of there time there is family or other people’s family so you can go and see them and totally get away from the rugby. If it is the week one then it’s all about getting your head around the next week so we have Dubai coming up, then it will be Cape Town so after Dubai it will be all about recovery; so we will be in the pool, a lot of ice baths, treatments if people are picking up any niggles then the flight down to Cape Town so it is all about recovery but also switching your head off and moving onto the next one.

A: I guess our favourite way of relaxing and kind of winding down  after we’ve exerted ourselves over two tough days of competition is  just going out with the rest of the team and spending that downtime  with the guys after we’ve been in such an intense environment. It’s  particularly something about doing it as a group, which I really  enjoy, and if we know we’ve got a bit of a break after that, sometimes  that will involve a couple of beers as well, which is a nice way of  kind of treating ourselves after a tough couple of days.

 

Q: What’s your favourite restaurant/cuisine?

W: Well we usually find a big steak restaurant, to be honest, especially somewhere out in Cape Town. There are a lot of good restaurants out there and everyone just gets stuck in. It’s pretty ideal after a tournament.

 

Q: If you weren’t playing for England Rugby 7s, what do you think you’d be doing – what kind of job would you be doing?

W: I think I’d either be doing engineering, to do with my degree, or I will be working on the farm back at home in North Yorkshire. We’ve got an arable and livestock farm that I’ve grown up on and it’s where my brother and Dad are working, so I can see myself falling back and working there.

H: I’ve just finished Uni and I absolutely loved it so I would probably be staying there and study a bit longer. Both my brothers are in Newcastle, so probably stay there another year and lap it up one more time! I was studying politics but I wouldn’t want to go into that at the moment!

T: Well, I did think about this very seriously because I came into  professional rugby relatively late. I didn’t start until I got offered  an opportunity until the end of the third year of my undergrad degree.  So it was never really on the horizon for me until quite late on. I  was looking at all sorts of things from journalism to management  consultancy so probably would have been doing something like that.

 

Q: Moving on to a cross-over sport, what did you think of Christian Wade and his run in the NFL?

W: That’s pretty amazing, I think it has really carved a route for other sports to jump over to NFL, he is obviously absolutely rapidly and his footwork and all that sort of stuff which makes a very good rugby player can be transferable to NFL and I think its great that he has opened this door and route for anyone else who is feeling that he has carved a way for them.

H: He had a couple of amazing runs. In pre-season, we had a player called Alex Grey who moved over to the NFL and he is doing really well too. It seems like the Brits are doing quite well over there, it’s really good to see the NFL bringing in all nationalities. I was at Wasps with Christian and he is electric and an incredible player and I’m sure he will do very well.

T: Well, he’s got a couple of good ones now and to be getting yourself  on the highlights so early on in your NFL career has got to be a good  thing. I mean he was dazzling rugby fields for so many years, the  talent he has is unreal and I’m so glad that it’s transferred over to  the NFL. I think we thought that he had real potential to do it. You  just never know if he’s gonna get the chance and better things will  work out for him.

 

Q: Would you say they’re a lot of similarities?

W: I think so yes, the attributes you have as a top rugby player like he is, are transferable. Just the elusiveness, and like I say, the speed. It all transfers over well and he is really doing well.

H: I think there will be more of a cross-over, I’ve heard they are thinking of bringing a team over here so that would be amazing and there seems to be a massive following. I’m always watching NFL on a Sunday; Redzone, I love it and I actually went to the Bears, Raiders match at Tottenham’s stadium. If they get more games coming over the traction will pick up, it will snowball and with players like Christian and Alex going over, more rugby players are probably going to want to do it. It’s a cool sport and great exposure for the game.

 

Q: Do you follow NFL at all? And if you do, who is your favourite team?

W: To be honest I’m not a big follower of it and I know very little about it!

H: I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan. They have been doing quite well this season, they have been terrible for the last 3 years. I support Leeds in football too, so it has been like supporting two tough teams. But this year it’s 3-0 so they are doing very well. I went to match with my Dad at Wembly and they were the first team I saw, I watched Colin Kapernick play and the way he played I absolutely loved, so I became and fan and followed them. I am more of a fan of the whole thing, I love watching it.

T: I don’t support any team like specifically, but I love watching the  highlights. I think part of the thing I love about it is the  athleticism and the blend of athleticism you get. I guess it mirrors  rugby as far as having different bodies for different jobs, different  machines. It’s almost more extreme. If you compare one of the linemen  to a wide receiver, they’re very different athletes and they have very  different jobs. I think that’s a cool element of the game.

 

Q: With the teams coming over here to play more and more, do you think it would be something you might get into later on?

W: Yea, I think so. I know a few lads who are going to the NFL this weekend actually and yes, I guess it is something I should look into a bit more as I know there is a lot of interest in it and it is pretty similar to rugby so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

 

Q: And lastly, if you could give one tip to someone who wants to play professional rugby, as a 7s player, and make it as a career, what would it be?

W: I think it would just stay hungry and keep wanting to play, you can’t fall out of love with the game – you’ve got to be playing because you want to play. Keep that hunger and drive to get your head down and get through the hard work but enjoy it at the same time because it is your hobby which is your job.

H: Don’t play 7s, it’s too hard! No, no, please play! It is a vocation – it is a lot of sacrifice, there are a lot of things you won’t be able to do when you play rugby but the rewards are phenomenal. Playing 7s, I have got to see the world it’s been amazing, I have got to play in some fantastic stadiums and the camaraderie with your fellow team-mates is something that you will cherish. It’s brilliant, its hard work but massively rewarding.