How international rugby captains handle their nerves
From meditation to family time and sensory deprivation tanks, here’s how the team captains of England, Ireland, Italy, France, Wales and Scotland chill out
image Guinness Six Nations
words Rhys Thomas
The Guinness Six Nations, the biggest international rugby tournament in Europe, has returned. Playing a series of five games each over roughly two months, the intensely physical challenges are mounting on each player.
Tension, pressure, expectation (and yes, physical stress) will be felt through each player on the team. Along with nerves and excitement, of course. Netflix will have their cameras floating about the place too, as they’re in the process of making a documentary on the sport.
So do the captains of the national teams get nervous? And what do they do to relax? We asked each team’s captain to find out.
Johnny Sexton, Ireland’s captain
“I enjoy being nervous. It means we’re ready and have something we want to prove. So I try and embrace those feelings more than I used to. I do a bit of meditation perhaps. But after and between games, well, I have three kids. So just normal normal stuff – spending time with family and friends. It’s the best way to switch off.”
Ken Owens, Wales’s captain
“If you've got your preparation right – and you've got confidence in yourself, and trust in those around you, you don’t have to be nervous. Of course, there's obviously a little bit of magic in your stomach that motivates you and keeps you on edge to perform. More adrenaline than nerves. But those feelings feel better than they used to. When it comes to relaxing, honestly, I just sit on the sofa and watch TV. Whatever’s on, I don’t mind what I watch. That’s how I relax.”
Jamie Ritchie, Scotland’s captain
“I didn’t until recently, but now I’ve found sensory deprivation tanks. There’s some in Edinburgh, and I was invited to go and try it. I loved it. You just feel… well you feel nothing at all. You feel nothing. It’s amazing. Everything is gone. When we’re in Edinburgh I’ll be doing that between games. Super relaxing. As for nerves, if I’m excited it’s generally a good thing, I welcome it.”
Michele Lamaro, Italy’s captain
“I get nervous sometimes before the game. I admit it more than I used to, and I try to keep those emotions within me now, but controlled, instead of trying to fight them. To relax between matches I normally just go for a ride on my bike, in nature. My favourite is mountain biking, I like it because finding yourself in nature is always something that makes you feel smaller. So it's just a bit of time where I can be active but I can also do my best to not really be thinking about anything. Just feeling content.”
Owen Farrell, England’s captain
“Yeah, I'd say it’s more excitement than nerves, but I do experience that kind of energy. You obviously look forward to the games and you look forward to the big occasions most. In the Six Nations, there’s plenty of those. Plus they build up for an entire week between matches, so it can get intense. Between matches, I've got a young family, so that helps. My two little boys make it very hard for my mind to be anywhere else when I’m in their company, they’re very busy. So that's it, I think. It does me a lot of good. I also like playing golf.”
Antoine Dupont, France’s captain
“This tournament is quite a long one, and often I don’t really relax during it. When we do have some days off, if we can get back home. I like to do that. There I just see my family and my friends, being around those helps me to relax.”
The Guinness Six Nations begins on Saturday February 4 with Wales v Ireland at 2:15pm. You can watch all the games across ITV and BBC.
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