Survival of the Fittest... A Sneak Preview into the World of the Rugby Elite.

As Max prepares for his final England U20's games in Manchester, (preparing for the battle against South Africa Monday 20th June, 19:45 BST) the season comes to a grasping halt for Exeter University captain James. We’ve caught up with both Rugby Ambassadors to learn more about what it takes to be dedicated to a sport that pushes mental and physical limits to the extremes.

Whilst Max has been busy at the Championships, James has been focused on the last few weeks of British University College Sport (BUCS) at the University of Exeter. Exeter has always been at the forefront of competition, where college rugby shapes and influences the UK’s success as a whole. With thirty-nine former students boasting full international caps, Rugby is engraved in Exeter’s history. From the first recorded match in 1850, to former students Richard Hill, John Scott, David Sole and Jeff Squire being selected to captain their respective countries, James himself plays for the Exeter squad, and plans to follow in the footsteps of the greats.

But all this success comes at a price, and the boys follow a demanding and ambitious regime to accommodate the sportsman’s lifestyle.

With a degree in Geography and a social life to balance alongside his Rugby playing, James constantly juggles up to eight training sessions (including gym) on top of the BUCS games every Wednesday and occasionally the Saturday League, where the Firsts and Seconds play in a National Mens League.

Max has a full regime instructed by Saracens, which includes being in the gym for 7:15 each morning. Breakfast after the gym comprises of eggs, beans and vegetables before racing off to a full day of Back meetings (where they gather and preview the team to be played that weekend,) Unit sessions (where backs and forwards train separately), team meetings and a hefty afternoon training session. 

With their future aspirations set high, it seems like a lifestyle that cannot be compromised. Whilst Max aims to develop into a regular Saracens player next season, James is determined to help Exeter to a second BUCS gold in two years next season. “I find short term goals more productive,” quotes James. “When it comes to Rugby, you never know when your next injury will cut your season or playing career short”.

Quickfire Questions...

Best piece of advice ever received?

James: A couple of years ago my coach told me: 'fatigue is 70% mental', it's something I hadn't ever thought about, but when you're tired your mind always goes before your body. I now try and keep it in mind in the last 20 minutes of the game when my legs are aching: it definitely helps keep me pushing all the way until the final whistle.

Best try ever scored?

Max: I can't remember too many from my younger days, but this season it would have to be a try I scored against Canterbury playing for OA's in the worst conditions ever. They kicked it to me in the backfield and I gathered it around the half way line and managed to swerve round a few players and score. 

Are ice baths an actual thing or just a myth?!

Max: I can assure you ice baths are actually a thing. We're made to stay in an ice bath for 2 minutes after our England games. 

How do you wind down after a tough day on the pitch?

James: Bath. Huge meal. And a few pints of warm Snakebite at Walkabout Bar with the Uni boys!

Most embarrassing moment on the rugby field?

James: There have been so many: having my shorts (and skins) pulled down in tackle in front of a group of my friends mums, tripping myself up and knocking the ball on over the line having run half the pitch, kneeing myself in the face and almost breaking my nose.. 


Stay tuned for more news from James and Max, and be sure to cheer Max on in the England U20's next match against South Africa on Monday 20th June at 19:45.

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