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Premiership Rugby

Zurich exclusive – interview with Clive Woodward

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Andrew Titheridge: Clive, we are down here luxuriating in the South of France. How important is training in this sort heat in the build-up to the World Cup?

Clive Woodward: I think the climate in England over the last few weeks has meant that we have been training in this sort of weather for quite a few weeks. When we planned this over two years ago now, we thought of coming down to Marseilles if the weather wasn't so hot in England.

To come and spend a week down here in this sort of heat would be good preparation. It does actually help you acclimatise, but the experts recommend staying far, far longer in a country than this to actually acclimatise to the heat. The big thing it does though Andrew is get people used to operating in the heat in terms of just obvious things like using insect repellent, sun cream lotion, and taking on literally gallons of water which you're not actually used to.

The players are used to drinking a lot of water anyway as it's all part of their diet and their preparation, but you've got to really load it over here. So it just a case of how you operate in the heat to get the optimum performance. The lads that played in the searing heat in Cardiff at the weekend did really well, and it just showed that what we're doing is correct.

In terms of acclimatisation, you have just not got the time to acclimatise to what we're going to get in Australia, but their fitness side will more then compensate for that. But the games are in the evening and I'm very confident. In Dave I think we've got the best fitness guy in world rugby if not in world sport. Certainly the players follow him to the letter and we're convinced that we will arrive at the World Cup in as good as shape as any other team.

AT: What are the requirements from where you are staying? What is the most important thing – is it the pitch or the food?

CW: Whenever we go away from our normal training ground at Pennyhill Park, the number one thing is the pitch. Where you train is everything because you can pick up injuries. You cannot train on a pitch that is uneven or is too hard so you prioritise the pitch, then everything else comes from there.

The food is very important. We bring the chef down from Pennyhill Park because the food can vary a lot and it's not a case of worrying about the quality, its just the type of food because it's all part of the nutrition programme that we work on.

Then third is the hotel. The hotel here is lovely – it has no air conditioning so it's been very hot for the guys, which has actually been a help. But the number one thing is the pitch, we want to come down here and train and everything else is secondary to what we do on the training paddock.

AT: The team's got a new kit you've been experimenting with. Will you use it and does it work?

CW: We will play in the World Cup kit on Saturday for the first time. It's not a case of experimenting; we've been working really closely with Nike, one of the main sponsors of the team. We highlighted this almost two years ago to Nike when Jason Robinson would have scored three tries I think against Scotland, but they kept on grabbing hold of his shirt and I sent an email to Nike with a throw away line, 'watch these three moments'.

I think if his shirt had fitted tighter he would have scored three tries and Nike have been absolutely outstanding. They have gone away and designed a kit for the World Cup that when you see it, it's clearly very tight. Also the material when you are perspiring a lot, which they will during the World Cup, the difference in weight between a current shirt and this new one is staggering.

The French use them as well and the down side is that Nike also sponsor France and South Africa, so those three teams will be wearing this kit for the World Cup. Well I think they will, certainly England will and the guys have been using them in training and think it's excellent, and we will see on Saturday when we go out for the first time.

It's all about getting an edge and working in partnership with our key sponsors. We work brilliantly with our hotel Pennyhill Park and fantastically with Zurich, and Nike is another way where we really can get an edge on performance. It's not only about getting a swoosh on the shirt, it's about seeing if they can produce something that actually aids the performance of the team.

AT: And if it worked, presumably within a couple of years all the Zurich Premiership clubs will be playing in this type of kit?

CW: I think what is interesting is that the All Blacks are sponsored by Adidas and already have pretty tight fitting shirts, but I don't think they are as tight as the one's you will see on Saturday. But this was designed mainly due to the Jason Robinson incident and the heat factor, but I think once the players start wearing it, it will be interesting to see what we will wear in next year's Six Nations when we go back to more English style weather.

I think they will want to stay with it because it's very tight and very light and they can still wear the padding underneath it. Obviously in the Zurich Premiership there are a great variety of manufacturer's supplying teams. If it's working, and the best thing is from the players, I obviously get all my feedback from the players and so far it's thumbs-up and I think they like it. It's not a kit for fat people (laughs) – I'm not looking at you, I was looking at myself!

I'm not sure how the replica kits are going to sell because the guys now are working on their six packs a lot. It is going to be one that the guys with the good bodies will be proud of.

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