CHAPPERS’ CHAT: THE FESTIVE PERIOD

In this week’s column, England U20 prop, Luke Chapman explains how rugby players deal with the Christmas and New Year period…

It’s finally that time of the year again! The Christmas jumpers are being dug out of the back of the wardrobe and the fear of putting on weight over the festive period is really starting to kick in.

As rugby players, the ever-dreaded Christmas weigh-in looms over all of our heads. Let’s just say, training on December 27th is going to be a very nervy day for all of us!

Although we have a busy schedule over Christmas, we are still given some time-off to spend with our families.

It is always portrayed that rugby players eat a ridiculous amount of food (which in some cases is very true) but we really do have to watch our weight as we don’t have a break of games over the Christmas period.

My tactics going into the festive period are very strategic. I try to eat as little as possible from December 22-24 and then on the big day, I go crazy!

sproutsMy plate at Christmas dinner looks like a meal fit for a bear. In fact, I currently hold my family’s record for the most brussel sprouts eaten in a minute. I managed 21, and this year I hope to beat it. At least the coaches can’t complain that I’m not stacking up on my greens!

My Christmas week is a bit different to that in a normal job – but that’s a sacrifice you have to make and I have always known that.

This year, I have trained with the boys on Tuesday and Wednesday and if selected, will then travel up to Ealing on Friday for our Christmas Eve fixture.

Once the game has finished, we will then have a jolly bus journey home, which is a good excuse to have a few drinks with my teammates.

That said, it won’t too mad as I don’t think my family would appreciate me being hungover on Christmas Day!

After the Christmas period, when our bloated belly’s start to deflate, it is straight back to rugby with a training session on the 27th as we will be preparing for our game against Nottingham on New Year’s Eve.

If selected, the tie against Nottingham will be my first ever New Year’s fixture and I am really looking forward to it.

It should be a great day. Everyone down here in Cornwall lives for rugby, and to have the chance to watch a game on New Year’s Eve is going to special for our fans.

I’m sure there will be a record crowd – complete with a lot of drunken Cornishmen preparing for their big night out.

Once the game is over, I too will be preparing for my favourite night of the year, where I will be meeting up with friends and family in my local town of Looe.

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It is now a tradition for us all to dress up and hit the local pubs. I’ve even been known to grace the town dressed up as a fairy, smurf and even a nun.

This will be my last column of 2016 and I really hope that you have enjoyed hearing my side of the Rugby Union story. I will back in 2017 with more tales.

Myself and the guys at MyClubBetting would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Cornish Pirates prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!  

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CHAPPERS’ CHAT: THE RUGBY PATHWAY

After a week off, Luke Chapman is back to talk about the journey from grassroots rugby to national team selection…

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the majority of rugby fans understand the pathway through the youth ranks of rugby – so I’m going to try and explain it!

You may think it’s fairly straight forward, however, it is a very complex system.

Obviously, as a player, you start out at your grassroots club. If you are good enough, then things start to get interesting very quickly.

There is a very structured pathway for players to follow. From the age of 13 players start to attend development programmes which are usually taken by coaches handpicked by the RFU.

There are a few venues across the country that host these development programmes.

During these sessions, coaches teach the basics of rugby, providing insight and knowledge in the process.

The sessions usually end with a practice match, where elite player development group (EDPG) selectors are present.

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Players who impress will be called into the EDPG and will meet once a month for a training session. The players who didn’t get picked tend to attend trials with the hope of representing their county at under 16 level.

EDPG sessions are far more structured than anything the selected lads have ever experienced before – allowing players to work on scrummaging, lineouts, rucking and ball carrying. Players will also get a proper chance to develop their positional skills during these monthly sessions.

Make no mistake, just because you’re in the EDPG doesn’t mean you can’t play for your county.

Coaches at the EDPG promote playing for your county. In fact, it tends to be usually easier for EDPG players to get into the county squad, as they are put forward by their development group coaches.

Regional academy selection is the next stage.

Selection usually occurs at a big club near to your base. I was based at Truro College, so my regional academy was affiliated to the Exeter Chiefs.

Being in a regional academy is a massive part to any player’s development. It is where you start to develop physically and play at a much higher standard as everything is overseen by the coaching staff of a Premiership club.

Regional academies are a collaboration between the RFU and the professional game. They help players develop and prepare for Premiership rugby, and eventually, their national teams. These academies were formed in 2001 following the production of the World Class Performance Plan and the RFU’s successful application for National Lottery Funding.

During this stage of a player’s development there are many things that can happen.

A player could be selected for the England under 18 or 20 squads. That player could also be signed by the club they are training with feel they are good enough. This usually leads to a player competing in much higher profile surrounding, such as LV Cup and A League games. In some cases, a player may even get a run-out in a Premiership fixture.

As you can see, a player’s career usually starts to really take off at around the age of 17 or 18. This is why regional academies play such a big part – they help with everything from media to nutrition.

If a player is lucky enough to gain a full-time academy contract when their education has finished, then things start to get a bit ‘big time’ for them.

Most Premiership academy players are involved with the England under 18 or 20 squads. Then, when they are too old to be eligible for selection, they start looking for an England Saxons call up.

This isn’t unusual as the vast maturity of the current England senior squad have played for the Saxons at some point during their career.

Naturally, if a player impresses during their time with the Saxons, then they will inevitably be called-up to the senior squad.

Jack Nowell is a player who has come through this exact development program. Jack (below) was part of the EDPG. He was then selected by his regional academy, before playing for England at under 16, 18 and 20 level.

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He then got signed by the Exeter Chiefs, where he played a handful of LV Cup and A League games, before being called-up to Saxons squad.

Jack was then selected to play Premierships games for Exeter. He is now in the senior England Squad and has every chance of making the prestigious British Lions’ squad next year.

He is a former Cornish Pirate, so naturally I am looking to emulate Jack’s career – there would be no greater honour for me then representing my country and the British Lions at senior level.

Cornish Pirates prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!

 

CHAPPERS’ CHAT: RUGBY OR FOOTBALL?

In this week’s column, England U20 prop, Luke Chapman compares the two sports that mean so much to his family…

Which is the better sport – rugby or football? It is the one big debate that takes place in pubs and bars around the country every weekend.

Although there are a much bigger number of football fans in the country, some people would still argue that rugby is a better sport to watch.

Personally, I think it is due to the contrasting success of our two national teams.

Playing for your country is something that can’t be beaten and should be the top of any players ‘to do’ list through their career – no matter which sport.

I have represented England at youth level, and I am so proud to have done so. The feeling of pride when you pull on that shirt is truly overwhelming.

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I look at the national football team and can’t believe how they have allowed themselves to underperform in recent years. Their support is amazing, but the loyal fans seem to be let down on a regular basis by players who seem to lack passion.

Then you look at the England rugby team, who are in the top four of the world rankings year in year out. The guys always seem to give 100% and fans are rarely left feeling short-changed come full time.

I am not here to bad mouth football in general, I love watching the Premier League in my spare time. It’s just the national team I have an issue with. They don’t seem to care as much as the rugby boys, if I’m perfectly honest.

The national football side shouldn’t be underperforming – participation levels in this country are hugely impressive in comparison to rugby.

There are 5,300 football clubs in England with over 7,000 different teams entered into a competitive league.

Compare that figure to those in rugby and it dominates it, with just 1,809 rugby clubs currently registered in England.

A heck of a lot of this is down to money – which starts at the very top of the game.

Take wages for example. Paul Pogba earns £290,000 a week, whereas a world-class Rugby player would struggle to make that in a year.

One thing that can be compared in terms of the two sports is their youth systems.

My cousin Billy Palfrey, is currently in the Plymouth Argyle academy. A few days ago, we spoke about his progression through the system – it all sounded very familiar.

Billy got picked up by his club at the age of 13, before progressing through the various age groups. He managed to survive where many people were released and eventually earned an academy contract at the age of 16.

He is now 18 and training with the first team after a loan spell away from the club.

It looks like he is going to be earning big money in the near future – let’s just say that I’m expecting a pretty decent Christmas present in a few weeks’ time!

When I look back on my early career, I realise how similar my journey was to Billy’s.

I was approached by Exeter Chiefs at the age of 15. After accepting their offer, I played a few games for their academy squad, before I joining up with the rest of the boys at Truro college – where the club’s academy was based.

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Then at 17, I got offered an academy contract. I stayed in the club’s academy until 2014, when I made a permanent move to Plymouth Albion – the rest is history.

Billy is a great lad, and I really do wish him the best of luck for the future. He has put in so much hard word to get where he is, and it is really starting to pay-off for him.

As a footballer, he is probably going to earn as much in the next twelve months as I have in the last four years.

But I’m not jealous at all…honestly!

Cornish Pirates prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!

CHAPPERS’ CHAT: PRE-SEASON PAIN

In this week’s column, Luke Chapman gives you an insight into his pre-season training schedule…

It’s a common misconception that when the rugby season ends, we all go home and hibernate for the rest of the year. In fact, it’s the exact opposite – the hard work is only just beginning!

I’m not sure if everyone thinks this, or whether it’s just me, but when pre-season has ended, the dreaded countdown to the next one begins almost immediately.

I remember being at college with Plymouth Albion prop, Dan Pullinger. We had just finished our last pre-season session and when we got in the car to head home he said some horrific words to me: “Only 254 days until next year’s pre-season mate.”

luke-chapman-3I think I’m right in saying its mainly us props that aren’t fans of pre-season as the backs always seem to love it!

To be honest, the first week is always the hardest. It’s like a baptism of fire – once you get those grueling first days out the way everything else seems a little more manageable.

Fitness tests usually take place during that initial week – which can be very interesting! You can always tell who has worked the hardest during the off-season by performance levels during those tests.

It’s surprising how much a fitness test can scare you and it doesn’t help when everyone around you is also feeling the nerves.

Everyone tries to wind each other up during the first morning, spreading the horrendous rumours that we have got a fitness test later that day. You try and tell yourself that it isn’t going to happen, but then you see the dreaded orange poles and you know that the proverbial is about to hit the fan!

An average day in the first month of pre-season starts at 8am with a weights session, alternating between upper and lower body on a day-to-day basis.

We then have a session which is focused on ball skills and individual training. For example, props will practice scrummaging and full backs will work on high balls.

After that, we move onto the main session of the day. This starts with 30 minutes of fitness based drills, which usually takes every ounce of energy from you. This is followed with a skills based game, which involves us working under pressure with heavily fatigued bodies.

It’s then time for the best part of the day, which is our active recovery session.

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At Cornish Pirates, we are lucky to be just 100 meters from the sea, so after each day of pre-season we have a compulsory sea swim. This is a light-hearted session that usually results in seaweed missiles being launched and a bit of casual ‘dunking’ from a few of the lads.

Then it’s time to head home, refuel and get some rest – all in the knowledge that you have to go through the same punishing routine again in under 24 hours.

At least I can look on the bright side, there’s only 190 days until my next pre-season begins!

Cornish Pirates prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!

CHAPPERS’ CHAT: GOING OUT ON LOAN

This week, England U20 prop Luke Chapman explains how the loan system can be beneficial to a player’s development and recovery…

In last week’s article, I spoke about my recent knee injury and the steps I needed to take in order to recover fully.

I am now at the stage where I need to regain some match fitness, so my club, the Cornish Pirates, have decided to send me on out on loan to National League 2 side, Redruth.

In the Premiership, it is very common to see players going out on loan. Squad sizes have risen dramatically over the past few years, meaning many fringe players are suffering from a lack of game time and to combat this, Premiership clubs are sending their players to the lower divisions.

Let’s use well-established Premiership side, Leicester Tigers as an example. Back in 2000, Leicester had a total of 34 players in their squad – they now have 54 players on their books, along with 40 academy players. That means that at this current time, a staggering 94 players are available to represent Leicester!

That might surprise you, but in all honesty, that number is pretty similar across all of the current Premiership clubs. Another good example would be Saracens – their squad size has increased by 18 players over the last six years.

I’m guessing you’ve now figured out why Premiership clubs are loaning out players on such a frequent basis? If they didn’t, they would have about 30 players each week getting no game time!

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To be honest, loan destinations really depend on age. Older, more experienced players will go to Championship clubs, while academy players will be sent to the National Leagues.

Personally, I think going a loan experience is massive for us younger players – it is a critical part in our development.

I spent time out on loan in my first senior season. I was sent to Exmouth and to say I learnt a lot would be a massive understatement!

We had a really tough season and were eventually relegated from the National League 2. Despite this, I learnt so much off the older, more senior players – who were so accommodating and welcoming.

Former Exeter Chiefs player, Chris Bentley used to check my studs every weekend to make sure they were long enough – it was like a teacher checking my homework!

But since returning to my parent club I now check them regularly as a habit. I was always told to be like a sponge – taking in as much advice and coaching from senior guys as possible.

Most players who are loaned to a Championship or National League side come from an environment where they are training on a full-time basis, meaning they are able to assist their new teammates in a number of ways.

luke-chapman-1As previously stated, I am just returning to action after a fairly serious knee injury. I have been out of the game for about three months, so my club have decided to send me on loan for four games to allow me to get some game fitness back.

Championship clubs use the loan system in a slightly different way to those at the top level. While they still use the system as method of developing players, they also use it as a way to help players regain full fitness after an injury.

If a player has been injured for a long period you can’t expect him to just jump straight back into hard-hitting action at a high level. A player recovering from injury needs time to find some form and match fitness, then when they are ready to come back into the squad they are able to cope with the level with a little more ease.

I am currently on loan at Redruth and last weekend, I played for the first time since my injury.

I had missed competitive action so much, but honestly, it felt like my lungs had shrunk!

I was shot to pieces after the game, but in a strange way, the feeling was satisfying. Now more than ever, I can’t wait to be back to full fitness and performing to the best of my ability.

That said, if anyone does has a spare pair of lungs for sale – then feel free to get in touch!

Cornish Pirates and England U20 prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!

CHAPPERS’ CHAT: INJURIES

In this week’s column, Luke Chapman talks about his recent injury struggles…

Injuries are becoming more and more frequent as the years go by. It was always going to happen – you only have to look at the size of the players now compared to ten years ago!

Take someone like Billy Vunipola, who weighs around 126kg. It’s fair to say that if Billy is running at you with a full head of steam then there is always going to be a slight risk of injury if you dare to tackle him.

Cameron Skelton, brother of the Australian international, Will Skelton, is currently the heaviest professional rugby player on the plant. He weighs in at 153kg, which is over 24 stone! Can you imagine trying to stop that beast when he’s running at you?

Injury prevention programmes are now common at most rugby clubs and there has been a lot of research into what types of injuries occur the most.

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The findings have shown that injuries to knees, ankles and shoulders are the most common in Rugby Union, which is no surprise to me.

Nowadays, clubs are making their players strengthen all the muscles and ligaments around these areas to prevent injuries. As players, we usually do these exercises and stretches before training or during gym sessions.

I have a recent, first-hand experience of injury. In fact, I have just returned from a grade three MCL tear in my knee, which kept me out of the game for 12 weeks.

The injury came at a hugely inconvenient time in my career. I played 30 National League 2 games for Cornish All Blacks last season, all of which were injury free.

I then signed at Cornish Pirates and picked up a serious knee injury during their first pre-season game – which was typical!

It was my first ‘proper’ injury, so to be honest, I was pretty clueless on what to do.

In the past I would have classed it as a knock and waited a few weeks until it felt better again before returning to action. However, this wasn’t to be the case at Cornish Pirates – I was in a professional environment.

I suffered the injury in Aberavon, Wales and the picture below sums up how I felt about it.

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I was put straight into a knee brace as soon as I’d finished my much needed post-match shower!

As we were traveling back down to Cornwall, the club’s physiotherapist put me on something called a ‘game ready machine’ – which is basically a pressurised ice pack.

I had the Sunday off to recover, then first thing Monday morning I was sent to hospital for a scan. To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur to me – it was all so professional and I wasn’t used to that!

I went back to the hospital the following day to meet the knee specialist. He informed me of my scan results, delivering the dreaded verdict: “Mr Chapman, you have a grade three tear.”

Any ligament tear is measured in grades. Grade one is a mild tear, Grade two is a moderate tear and Grade three is a severe tear.

Before I had even returned to the club from the hospital, the physios had already written a personalised rehabilitation plan for me – I was amazed!

The weekly plan was created to help me get fit again, and I couldn’t believe how detailed it was.

Like any other player, this was massive for my confidence and gave me the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment that I so desperately needed.

Being told you’re going to be out of the game for a while is any player’s worse nightmare, but being provided with a rehab programme and seeing when you’re going to be back playing is the massive boost you need at that time.

Being injured is an odd experience. You start off being at the lowest of low and you end up coming back stronger than you ever were before.

I honestly can’t tell you how good it is to be back training with the boys.

I think the physios are over the moon too – they were starting to get bored of my jokes and stinking knee brace!

Cornish Pirates and England U20 prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!

CHAPPERS’ CHAT: SCRUM LIFE

In this week’s column, England U20 prop, Luke Chapman discusses the art of scrummaging.

Ask a back what a scrum was and they will probably describe it as a good way to ruin a game.

However, if you were to ask a prop forward what a scrum is, you would quickly become caught up in a deep, passionate and meaningful conversation. It’s like asking someone what the meaning of life is – everyone has their own opinion.

Although most people may not think there’s much to scrummaging, in my eyes, it is an absolute art!

There is a lot that goes on in that sweaty, groaning boiler house – it takes years of experience to learn the dark art of scrummaging!

I will always remember a quote from an academy coach.

“You have to go backwards to go forward” he told me, when I was first starting out in men’s rugby.

Initially, I had no idea what he was talking about – as a prop you never want to go backwards in a scrum.

Then suddenly it made sense. He meant that you must learn how to deal with going backwards before you can go forwards, it took a few games to fully understand and grasp the concept.

I’ll tell you one story where I had to learn the hard way…

I was at Plymouth Albion and wasn’t getting much game time, so the club decided to send me on loan to the Cornish All Blacks for four games.

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I turned up to training with my new team the following day ready for my first session. However, they told me that I had to play for the second team before making my first XI debut, which to be honest, was fair enough.

I was informed we were playing Bude RFC away, so naturally, I was absolutely buzzing.

Bude are a decent outfit and I was so pumped for the game.

I rocked up to the ground to find out that we were in fact facing the Bude third team. As you can imagine, we were all thinking that the 80 minutes were going to be a walk in the park – me included!

Kick-off followed shortly after and I looked across to see who I would be scrummaging against. I didn’t for a second expect to see a 140kg monster staring back at me. He was at least six foot four in height and was looking at me like I was his dinner for the evening – you can imagine my horror!

I may as well of spent that whole game with a reversing beeper on my back – I was going backwards quicker than I could run!

That said, I did learn a hell of a lot from those 80 minutes.

There is a different level of scrummaging in every league, meaning a lot of preparation goes on behind the scenes for any weekend game.

At the Cornish Pirates, we do a lot of analysis on the oppositions scrum. We have a forward’s meeting each week where we watch clips of the opposition and discuss tactics for the upcoming game.

luke-chapman-3We talk about what each individual prop does, what angle he scrummages at, if he is weaker in certain positions – it even gets as specific as where we are going to place our bind on the opposition.

Believe it or not, that is a massive factor in scrums, if you have your bind in the wrong position your body angle can become illegal.

We also analyse our training. We do two scrum sessions a week, which usually take place early in the week to allow our body time to fully repair itself.

We get our scrum sessions filmed so we can watch them back. Myself and the other younger props benefit from this massively, as we get to sit down with the more experienced lads, who teach us what we are doing right and wrong.

Props never stop learning. When you’re 40 and can’t get out of bed the morning after a game, then it’s probably time to hang up the boots and give the learning a miss.

Cornish Pirates prop, Luke Chapman works with MyClubBetting – an organization that focusses on giving back to grassroots sports clubs. For further information on My Club Betting simply visit myclubbetting.com or call 01883 772929 within office hours.

If your club already has a MyClubBetting service, head to our club directory and find their site!