England go big game hunting
After three days of intense training at their high-altitude camp in South Africa, the England squad took some time out from their hectic schedule to visit a local gaming reserve close to their Potchefstroom base in the North West Province – two hours south west of Johannesburg.
The day included a two-and-a-half game drive, where England’s elite were enthralled to see three of the Big Five Game - lions, rhinos, wilder beast -as well as cheetahs, crocodiles, springboks and black jaguars. The players were also invited to have lunch at the reserve and were served up a sumptuous traditional South African braai.
“The first few days in camp have been very intense and credit must be given to the squad for how hard they have worked,” said England coach Steve McNamara.
“The high-altitude has already had massive benefits in terms of conditioning and anaerobic capacity. The players are finding it really tough and they were ready for a break on Sunday.
“It is vital that we mix it up by adding some variety. The down time was well received and the players have tasted some new experiences in their life. The safari game drive gave us a real feel of Africa. To be up close and personal with the lions and rhinos was a special moment and is something the players may never experience again.”
It was back to training on Monday and with just under two weeks to the opening match against Wales in the Autumn International Series, the players spent most of the afternoon on the main pitch to hone in on some offensive play.
“The next few days we will throw ourselves back into training and the intensity will get even tougher as we get closer to the end of the week,” added McNamara.
“Our focus will then be about our opening game in the Autumn International Series against Wales. There is still a lot to do and we want the players firing when we return to England at the end of next week.
“The squad have been very professional and it is also gratifying that many people from the University, where we are based, are in awe of watching the team train. This is big rugby union country but overtime Rugby League has the potential to infiltrate this area. Not only do we feel the benefit of training over here, but visits like this can only help the development work being carried out by the South African Rugby League to grow the sport in a rugby mad country.”
England’s opening match in the Autumn International Series will see them face Wales at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Ground in Wrexham on Saturday October 27 (2.30pm).
Their first ‘home’ fixture takes place a week later, Saturday November 3, at MS3 Craven Park in Hull when England host France in a match which also kicks off at 2.30pm.
The Autumn International Series concludes with the final at Salford City Stadium on Sunday November 11 (5.00pm).
Tickets for the 2012 Autumn International Series cost just £12 for adults and £6 concessions and can be purchased by calling the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113 or by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk