Key Considerations in the Preparation of Teams for Extended Rugby Tours

Brian Cun niff e and Paul Stridgeon

Modern-day Rugby Union is an increasingly global game with cross-hemisphere tours forming a regular part in yearly calendars, particularly in the men’s 15s game. For southern hemisphere teams these touring windows typically occur each November when teams travel to Europe (tour durations ~3-4 weeks) while conversely, the top European nations tend to tour the southern hemisphere during summer months (tour durations ~2-3 weeks).

Outside of this, the British and Irish Lions (an amalgamation of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) form ever)' four years for a limited period of time to tour either, New Zealand, South Africa or Australia with modern-day tour durations lasting anything between 50 and 60 days. Additionally, the Rugby World Cup, the sport’s pinnacle tournament, comes around ever)' four years where teams (depending on success and progress into the knock-out stages) are required to tour for up to 70 days.

The above are used as exemplars only and exclude any pre-tournament training camps and warm-up games. The current chapter aims to describe some of the challenges extended tours (+1-month duration) present to teams and some of the necessary preparatory measures teams will typically deploy so as to provide players with the best possible platfonn for potential success. This planning process begins well in advance of the first game.

The Demands of 'Touring'

Unlike domestic competition, when a player can feasibly be back in his/her own bed on the night of, or night after, a game preparing a team to be successful ‘tourists’ by default means players are ‘away’ from home over an extended period of time. This can bring with it many challenges or indeed opportunities if framed and managed correctly. One of the most significant is the volume of travel involved.

Table 11.1 below provides an overview of travel requirements involved for the last two British and Irish touring squads including those for Wales’ participation at the most recent Rugby World cup in Japan. While the psychological aspects of touring are not a focus of this chapter, it is important that both players and staff understand fully the requirements of touring that may perhaps get lost in a day-to-day or tour planner e.g. time away from family, scheduling calls to home when you are often tired from a heavy day’s travel/training. It is therefore important from an early stage to ensure that these demands are known but the personal implications and self-management strategies are discussed where possible, including how best support the player group over such extended durations.

Tournament ‘momentum’ represents a well-used but often poorly described term in team-sport depending on the lens from which it is viewed. From a physical preparation standpoint, it is ensuring individual players can thrive within such environments, peak when it matters, grow collectively as a team throughout and get to the end of the tournament with less residual fatigue than the opposition.

TABLE 11.1 Example travel schedules of extended tours. Travelling distance and time are best estimates (

British & Irish Lions Australia tour 2013

British & Irish Lions New Zealand tour 2017

Wales Rugby World Cup Japan tour 2019

  • London to Cardiff
  • Cardiff to Dublin
  • Dublin to London
  • London to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong to Perth
  • Perth to Brisbane

Brisbane to Newcastle

  • Newcastle to Sydney
  • Sydney to Canberra
  • Canberra to Brisbane

Brisbane to Melbourne

  • Melbourne to Noosa
  • Noosa to Sydney
  • Sydney to London
  • London to Cardiff
  • Cardiff to Dublin
  • Dublin to London
  • London to Melbourne
  • Melbourne to Auckland
  • Auckland to Whangarei
  • Whangarei to Auckland
  • Auckland to Christchurch
  • Christchurch to Dunedin
  • Dunedin to Rotorua
  • Rotorua to Hamilton
  • Hamilton to Auckland
  • Auckland to Wellington
  • Wellington to Queenstown
  • Queenstown to Auckland
  • Auckland to London
  • Cardiff to London
  • London to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to Kitakyushu city
  • Kitakyushu city to Toyota city
  • Toyota city' to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to Otsu city
  • Otsu city to Oita city'
  • Oita city to Kumamoto city
  • Kumamoto city to Oita city
  • Oita city to Yokahama city

Yokahama city to Tokyo

  • Tokyo to London
  • London to Cardiff
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