rugbystore.co.uk recently caught up with Canterbury Ambassador, Adam Jones (former Wales and Lions Prop, currently playing for Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership), at the Canterbury Ultimate Training Experience in London. We took the opportunity to ask him his advice for amateur rugby players looking to improve their game.
rugbystore: Do you have any pre-game rituals and is there any dangers in becoming dependant on them?
Adam Jones: I wouldn’t say I am so cut up that I need to-do it but I will always tape my thumbs wrists and two fingers. If I am on a bus before a game I will text my wife about an hour and a half before it. And that’s it, if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t have a breakdown or anything.
I can only speak from my own position and that’s the scrum, you know you need certain triggers before you go into the scrum so anything like that helps you in there. Anything that helps you, helps you but I wouldn’t get too flustered if I didn’t do it.
RS: What are some of the mistakes new players make when they start training seriously for rugby?
AJ: If you’re coming from an amateur background straight into higher level rugby I assume it will be a lot to do with going to the gym but don’t run before you can walk type thing.
I would put a fiver on the fact that it gets more technical the higher you get up. But rugby’s rugby.
RS: How should players deal with nerves the night or even the hour before a big game?
AJ: When I was playing international rugby, it’s just keeping yourself busy. Whether it’s just spending time with mates in the team room or going for coffee or anything like that. Do your preparation throughout the week then you know you will be less worried about anything come the weekend. You have just got to control yourself then.
RS: After the game do you have any sort of recovery tips
I was em…yeah not so much. Obviously the ice baths and things are popular these days and you know the protein shakes.
RS: Anything that works well for you personally?
AJ: Nah not really. A bit of food and a few beers.
RS: What should a player do if they stop improving?
AJ: That’s the thing about rugby it does take a long time to master it, it’s hard to master any skill. But that’s the beauty about it, it’s a team sport. You know if you are finding that you’re struggling you can go to other players, you can go to the coach and they can help you get to that next level. It can get frustrating but, you know, at the end of the day you have got to enjoy it. Don’t take it too seriously.
RS: What aspect of the game do you think changes the most between the amateur and professional levels of rugby?
AJ: Obviously with the professionals, everything is bigger, stronger and faster for a start. Then everything technically is a wee bit higher. The scrum will be more tactical, the line-out will be more tactical. I would put a fiver on the fact that those are a lot more technical the higher you get up. But rugby’s rugby.
RS: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
AJ: Enjoy it. Just make sure you give it everything you have got.
You start playing because it’s a hobby, so you keep that mind set, and the higher you go, the more you have to do this and that, the more you have to look after yourself. But don’t be left wondering, enjoy it and give it your all.
RS: Often players are asked to play in a position they don’t like, what’s your advice to them?
AJ: Certain different positions aren’t so bad but if you asked a winger to play prop or anything in the front row you know it’s a wee bit more difficult. That’s the biggest thing for me, the front row, you can’t really change it too much. If you’re a winger or a back row and they tell you to go in the front, just tell them “Nah you’re okay thanks”.
If you’re a winger and they tell you to go in the front, tell them “Nah you’re okay thanks”.
RS: As a prop, what are the most important aspect of your game to work on?
AJ: I think you have got to become strong: in the legs, back, neck, hips and the core. That’s probably the one thing I noticed first off when I came to professional rugby. The better you get, the more you’ll have access to conditioners that will help you get better at that. You get fitter and it’s not something that’s done on your own. They will help you reach the goals that you need to get to.
RS: What other sport do you think rugby players should watch for inspiration?
AJ: Again for me as a front rower, I don’t know if its inspiration but technically there is a few things to learn from wrestlers. I don’t mean like WWE, but like Olympic wrestlers. There’s a lot in that, especially for the contact area, the manipulation of the other players bodies, the core strength and the way they use their centre of gravity. Rugby is the sort of a sport, especially on the fitness side, that lets you take from lots of different sports.
RS: Finally, any more advice for players that are looking to break into professional rugby?
AJ: Well I didn’t join the game until quite late. Nowadays there’s academies, so a lot of players get snapped up at like fourteen or fifteen but there wasn’t academies around when I was a kid.
I came in quite late missed out on any sort of caps and whatnot, so I never thought I would make it and then all of a sudden I started playing for Neath, my local team, and two years later I was playing for Wales. It was quite a quick rise and I wasn’t expecting it. Just never give up. If you think you’re good enough then just keep chasing it.
Get more great tips for amateur rugby players from The Professionals:
David Wallace on playing to your strengths.
Geoff Cross on recovery.
Rob Vickerman on learning from your mistakes.