England rugby players endured a military survival experience in Cornwall just a day before the final training squad was named for the World Cup in Japan. Instructors from the Defence Survive Evade Resist Extract Training Organisation at RAF St Mawgan tested the players’ resilience and teamwork at a secret training camp overnight on the base.
All 31 of the England rugby players travelled to a small piece of woodland at RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall, none of them knowing where they were going or why. They were met by experienced survival instructors, used to dealing with the elite of the Armed Forces, ready to put the elite athletes through a different kind of training exercise.
Without any way of contacting the outside world, the players had to focus on surviving – building a shelter, starting a fire to cook with, making a bed from whatever nature provided, and all with only their teammates there to support them; it was the ultimate bonding experience. It was also a test, as every day is in the World Cup build up. Eddie Jones and his coaching staff watched carefully to see how players reacted and worked together, who had the grit to dig deep and carry on under hardship, who naturally took the lead when faced with a new challenge.
The following day the tired players were faced with more team challenges, this time clinging to ropes and poles hundreds of feet up. Royal Air Force training experts, from the Resilience Wing of the Robson Academy, discussed their performance with the ever-watchful coaches, highlighting every little comment or subconscious bit of body language that would show signs of what was going on inside the players’ heads.
The final tests were in the water on the famous Cornish coastline, in partnership with Newquay Activities Centre. At the end of the day the team were finally allowed to relax, enjoying a social gathering on Lusty Glaze Beach, Newquay, before the journey back to London. It was a time to reflect on what they’d learned about themselves and each other, also on the challenges yet to come.
At a short ceremony before leaving, George Ford, England player, said: “Just a huge thank you from us guys for letting us come down here and use your facilities. It’s been challenging, particularly last night, and stuff like this is great for us to take into what we’ve got coming up in the next few weeks.”
Squadron Leader Nikki Lofthouse, RAF Brize Norton, who had the idea of inviting the England squad said: “It was an honour to be able to design and facilitate the invaluable training in leadership and team ethos to the England Rugby Squad. The Royal Air Force has a wealth of experience in this area and delivers world class training through our dedicated instructors and facilities. The Royal Air Force offers opportunities like no other and to be able to take this from initial concept through to delivery, working in partnership with England Rugby, is a great example of what you can do. The parallels that can be drawn between elite sport and military skills are many and opportunities like this provide a great mechanism to share best practice.”