Inside England’s crash course to prepare for Rugby World Cup knockout stage

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

England's players have been told to expect another "crash course" in order for them to be at their physical peak for the knockout stage of the World Cup.

Fitness guru Aled Walters has explained how he drove England into dark places during the four World Cup warm-up matches in August.

The head of strength and conditioning put England in a hole last month, so that by the time the tournament started they could be sharp as a tack.

England trained so hard five days before facing Ireland in Dublin on August 19 that the GPS monitors showed they had effectively played a full Test match.

The result was a leggy performance in a 29-10 defeat — but with the clear plan to see England fizzing for last Saturday's World Cup opener against Argentina.

That is exactly what happened, as Steve Borthwick's men produced an all-action display to defeat the Pumas 27-10, almost thriving with 14 men for all but three minutes of the match.

Steve Borthwick talking with Aled Walters, strength and conditioning coach (Getty Images)
Steve Borthwick talking with Aled Walters, strength and conditioning coach (Getty Images)

Walters whipped South Africa into brutal physical shape to defeat England in the 2019 World Cup Final and is now plotting to pull off another masterstroke. England ran out of steam against the Springboks after defeating New Zealand in the semi-finals in Japan.

While Borthwick's men are not looking to the latter stages of this tournament with expectation at this point, Walters is, however, hard at work trying to build in ever greater physical supremacy. Every team has a fallow weekend during the pool stages of this World Cup, and Walters is determined that England will not waste theirs.

With no match on the weekend of Saturday, September 30, Walters has other plans for England.

"That added week, it's about how well you use that," said Walters. "I've got provisional plans of how we're going to use that week. Having an extra week in the middle of the tournament is a bit of a luxury. It allows you to upload again at the right time, if you're able to, and reach a second peak."

Walters started work with England in June, after three years with Leicester that followed his World Cup-winning stint with South Africa. With no time to waste to hone England's fitness, the fast-quipping Welshman set to work on Borthwick's squad.

"What we saw on Saturday was the first stage of all our hard work coming to fruition," said Walters. "We had 10 or 11 weeks to get ready and it's like going on a crash course to pass your driving test. We didn't have the advantage that many sides do of building across four years, we had to be pretty precise with what we were doing."

Walters insist he will use "anything that gets them into the dark" to push England's players to the limit, and usually the exercise or discipline each individual enjoys the least.

"To get someone fitter you almost have to dig them into a hole to allow them to recover and come out stronger," he said. "As long as there is context to it, then players can enjoy knowing it will help them. And they should gain confidence from the physical place they were in against Argentina.

"With the crash course we were on, we could not afford to row back in August. So we were leggy in August, but that was because we were pushing the players to the limit so close to matches."