GAINcast Episode 204: Prepare for the game (with Eddie Jones)

Training is about preparing for the game. It’s a simple concept, but we often lose sight of that when we dive too deep into tactics, strength training, or other facets of training. English Rugby coach Eddie Jones tries to bring this concept to the forefront in his training. Everything they do comes back to the game. The structure of practice, the mental preparation, and fitness training all are designed with the game demands as the central focus. He joins this week’s GAINcast to walk us through is approach to preparing athletes.

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Notes and quotes

Eddie Jones is the head coach of England Rugby. He led them to a runner-up finish at the 2019 World Cup as well as three Six Nations titles. He also coached Australia to a runner-up finish at the 2003 World Cup, advised South Africa en route to their 2007 title, and led Japan to historic results at the 2015 World Cup.

  • 0:00 – Introduction.
  • 3:00 – Lessons from GAIN 2019.
  • 5:15 – Learning from outside your sport: “There is always a better way to train. No one knows where we can go, so you are just looking to see if there’s another sport that does something a bit better and try to customize that to your own system.”
  • 8:30 – Where Jones is most effective as a coach.
  • 12:30 – Challenges of modern athletes: “If you look at players now they rarely have to do something for themselves. Everything is taken care of for them from a young age. If you put too much on the player at a higher level they don’t have the experience to cope with it.”
  • 14:30 – Strategies for athlete independence: “We felt like we were treating players like robots. They would come down and fill out a wellness form. We stopped that. If you need something, find the person you need it from. The players have really enjoyed working it out for themselves.”
  • 17:15 – Jones’s biggest influences and who he you like to meet.
  • 21:15 – More examples of developing athlete ownership: “I used to give very detailed game plans. Now we give the 3 major points as a framework and expect the players to put the bones to the game plan.”
  • 23:30 – Perfect game: “The perfect game is when you have absolute control of the game. You might defend for 79 minutes, but you have control and players have emotional balance.”
  • 25:15 – Perfect practice: “The perfect practice is 70% success and 30% failure. So we’re always trying to work out how we can get our training to that level.”
  • 26:00 – The evolution of practice structure: “The biggest change I’ve seen in practice is declining distinction between S&C and rugby. You train the player for the game and then see what they need from S&C, rather than S&C defining the targets.”
  • 29:00 – Contact conditioning: “You have to prepare players for the most intense periods of the game. In our game we can have players doing up to 7 contacts in a minutes. If you aren’t preparing the players for contact, you’re being negligent.”
  • 32:30 – Load management: “I don’t know what load management is. You always have to prepare your players for the game. To say this is the right amount of running for this week’s training doesn’t hold. No one really knows. We’re experimenting all the time.”
  • 35:00 – Tactical periodization.
  • 37:45 – Fundamentals vs. systems.
  • 39:15 – Lessons from the 2019 World Cup.

To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic: