Thursday 26 April 2018

Sam Warburton: Wales training camp most brutal I've ever experienced

Wales captain Sam Warburton
Wales captain Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton

The alarm would go just before 6am each day. There was time for a protein shake and for the physios to put on our strapping.

We would be on the pitch ready for a 6.45am start. Even at that time it was sweltering. The session would usually last only about 45 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer.

After the first session we did as a group of forwards, I have never seen a pitch clear so quickly. The changing rooms were right next to the field and everyone was in there in a flash.

At home you will see players staying out on the field doing their 'extras' after training, but here it was drummed into us that there were to be 'no heroes in the heat' and that once training was finished we should leave immediately. (There were paramedics at all our sessions just in case anything did happen, but it did not thankfully.)

So that is what we did and we must have been a sight sitting in the changing rooms with towels over our heads trying to cool down.


This was Doha in Qatar and the second of our pre-Rugby World Cup camps.

The first had been in Fiesch in Switzerland and we thought that had been tough enough.

Indeed, I remember chatting to some of the boys out there in Switzerland and we were asking, 'Do you reckon this is as hard as Poland?', where we have often trained in the past.

Most of them were saying it was. And this was even though in Poland we would often do four sessions a day, while in Switzerland we were doing just two a day.

But the number of sessions in Switzerland was dictated by the fact that we had to take a gondola-like cable car from our accommodation at altitude to training, and you could not come back after 6pm. We made up for it in those two sessions.

In both Switzerland and Qatar our philosophy was that we should sleep and recover at altitude and then train at lower levels, because you produce more red blood cells at altitude but you need to train at a lower level if you want to do so at a high intensity.

In Doha, we slept in special altitude rooms that replicated being at 3,000 metres.

There were three sessions a day. It was two days' training, then one day off, with a total of six days' training.

We could not train in the middle of the day because of the heat - it was around 45C then.

So we had that early-morning session first and then in the middle of the afternoon we would do a session indoors, which was skills-based before finishing with a weights session in the gym. Then there was a final session of rugby and fitness in the evening.

The worst session of the lot? There was one running session of intervals and repeated sprints that no one will ever forget.

The boys are always asked to give a figure out of 10 as their perceived rate of exertion afterwards and quite often throughout the camps there were a lot of eights and nines, but for this one there were 10s galore.

There were people saying that it was the hardest session they had ever done in their professional careers. It was horrendous. You have food at about four or five in the afternoon and you can see how nervous everyone is. There is not much chat. Everyone knows what is coming in the evening.

Everything was definitely up a notch from the work we did four years ago before the RWC.

And it is an indication of where we are in that it was decided we will now not go to Poland between our two warm-up Tests against Ireland, as had been previously planned.

Anyway, we actually have the facilities at our training base at the Vale of Glamorgan Resort so that we do not miss out on anything.

We can warm our indoor barn to 40C and train in the altitude chamber there so we can keep the adaptations we have made in Switzerland and Qatar and we now have our own cryotherapy chamber, which was such a big part of the reason for us going to Poland.

We can actually do more work by staying here because we will not have to travel for two days.

Was there any fun in Switzerland or Qatar? Well, the arrival of Paul 'Bobby' Stridgeon as one of our conditioners has made sure that there is always plenty of fun.


Quite a few of us knew him already from the Lions tour to Australia, and he is always so full of energy and enthusiasm.

There was an entertainments committee - as there always is during campaigns - with people like Jamie Roberts and Richard Hibbard on it, and there was a lot planned for days off, things like go-karting and a visit to a water park.

There was a lot of interest, with plenty of the boys putting their names down, but the truth is that when it came down to it and we did have a day off, everyone was just too tired. Everyone just wanted to laze around.

It has been that draining. When we got home from Qatar, it was not until the fourth day off that I was able to wake up feeling anything like normal.

Not that I am complaining. We are preparing for a World Cup, after all. It is no time to be leaving anything to chance. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport