Have you ever wondered what it’s like being an England player on match day?
Full-back Alex Goode, who started all three wins at Twickenham in last year’s RBS 6 Nations, takes us through a typical build-up to a match at England’s home ahead of this weekend’s key match against Wales.
RISE AND SHINE
I tend to wake up quite early on match days. There’s not much to do so I put a film on or whatever TV series I am watching, just to take my mind off the game for few hours. I don’t want to think about it too early, I start playing it over in my mind and I don’t want that.
At the moment I’m watching Californication, which I think is brilliant. It’s very easy to watch and was recommended by Danny Care.
I’ve always got salt water by the side of my bed when I wake up. I’m conscious of cramp so the salt water keeps me from getting dehydrated. I like to get into the mindset of being prepared as early as possible.
There’s no specific time for breakfast so I’ll go downstairs and might see some players but others will sleep in. It’s quite relaxed and I tend to have a big bowl of porridge with some berries and honey – it’s easy to digest and a good early morning slow release of carbohydrates. I’ll have some more salt water and maybe a small protein shake.
I’ll then head back to my room and sort some bits and pieces out.
Then the forwards and backs split up with the backs doing some activation drills – something light to get our hands moving and warmed up a bit. We’ll talk about the game then head back to our rooms.
DON’T FORGET YOUR SOCKS
I’ll get changed and make sure everything is in the bag, then double-check and triple-check. I’ll keep checking…there’s only about three items you need and I’ve been doing it long enough I shouldn’t need to, but I keep a mental list.
Boots, gum shield, black shoes, black socks…I forgot my socks last week and had to wear white socks to the dinner – classic look.
FUEL FOR THE FIRE
For a 3pm kick-off we’ll eat our pre-match meal any time between 11am and 12.30pm.
I tend to eat later than some of the squad, usually three hours before the match.
I find it quite hard to eat sometimes so I opt for something easy like spaghetti bolognese. It’s just a case of shovelling it down to get some fuel in – I will barely taste it, then maybe have a banana and keep taking the salt water.
The pre-match meal tends to be quiet. There are different choices for different people. Some people have the same thing in the same quantity from the night before to the pre-match meal, but my regime is not as religious as that.
I just try to make things as similar to when I’m at home. The reason I am here is because I’m playing well for my club so why change that and do something different?
NEXT STOP TWICKENHAM
We have a unit meeting for the backs, then a team meeting, then on to the bus.
Nearly everyone on the bus has their headphones in or is in their own little world, really focussing on the game.
On the way to the stadium we see people as you drive past and people in the pub on the corner in Whitton who always cheer us on – come rain or snow.
Then we get to the ground and all the cars and people are there having their picnic and waiting for us to arrive. When you get off the bus you are greeted by this wall of noise and positivity, they want you to do well and that’s a big part of what makes it so special.
I always make a big effort to look up and see all the people clambering over the side of the stadium – we see them looking down at us just to wish us well.
90 MINUTES BEFORE KO
We get to the changing room and one of the coaching staff will have the music on. There is a choice of drinks, the physios are lined up and there is tape galore for the boys that need strapping.
I tend to get my boots on and go out on to the pitch with the ball – sometimes on my own – to check the ground, check it hasn’t changed too much. I just want to mentally know I have made the right decision with my studs.
The stadium will be empty at this point but I have a walk around and just have a think about the game – think how this is a dream come true, it’s what I love doing. Just take it all in for a few minutes then go back inside.
I don’t tend to pay much attention to what the others are doing, there are some people who are nervous but others quite relaxed and having a talk. Then there are others that have their headphones on or players reading the programme who don’t like to be bothered.
The kickers and the hookers are generally getting things ready. I get my kit out and strap my wrist and thumb, which I’ve done for years to prevent injury.
I put the boots back on and get out pretty early. The kickers are usually out first, Owen Farrell and myself, we do some passing and stretching together then the rest of the boys filter out in ones, twos and threes and then I do the same routine I do at Saracens.
I tend to kick with [attacking skills coach] Mike Catt for about half an hour, while the fly-halves – Owen and George Ford – will kick together.
At this point the coaches work with you as much or as little as you want – they are there to help – not coaching as such.
Then it’s back to the changing rooms and with about 25 minutes to go before kick-off Stuart [Lancaster] will say something and Robbo [Chris Robshaw] will say something.
We will go out again as a group and do the team warm-up and the coach will talk for a final time, but at that point you are in your own mindset and already prepared.
EMOTIONS RUNNING HIGH
The best thing about the pre-match is the anthem, especially at home. When you hear 82,000 people singing the national anthem you are just full of pride and the emotions are really going. You have to have that emotional side in rugby – it is so special and makes you very proud to be English and represent your country at that point.
That’s the high point in terms of the adrenalin and you are just raring to go – you just want to touch the ball early and get involved, do the best you can and try to make your point.
Get behind-the-scenes news from Alex Goode and his England team-mates with Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com