Stuart Lancaster isn’t the first coach to blare out Welsh hymns during England rugby training, according to Jeremy Guscott.
The England rugby union team have prepared for their first Six Nations match against Wales this Friday by playing recordings of the Welsh crowd through speakers during training. But speaking ahead of the tournament, former England centre and BBC pundit Jeremy Guscott revealed that his England coach did the same thing in the 1990s, in order to prepare the team for the deafening reception they would receive in Cardiff.
“When I was an England player under Geoff Cooke, we trained at [Gloucester’s stadium] Kingsholm before the Five Nations in 1991. During training, we had the Welsh national anthem blaring out through the announcing system,” he said.
“No matter what nationality you are, that anthem [The Land of My Fathers] can be moving. We all hum it even though we don’t know the words. It’s brilliant, but you can get lost in it, so Geoff thought, ‘Well, I’m going to blast it out every day then.’
“Without being disrespectful, by the time we got to the game, we lined up for the anthems and when the Welsh one struck up we thought, ‘Oh, please let this be over already.’ That was one mental edge we had,” Guscott recalled.
Coach Lancaster admitted during a press conference on Tuesday that he too had been playing recordings of the Millennium Stadium crowd in order to prepare for the match-day atmosphere.
“All it is is a way of trying replicate for the players who haven’t been there examples of the type of sounds and how it reverberates around the stadium and how clear your communication has to be,” he told journalists.
“Often, you can’t hear yourself on the field because of the intensity of the occasion and it just replicates that and gives you a bit of a chance to prepare.
“We’ve not done it all week, I can assure you, because we’d have no eardrums left!”
The last time England travelled to Cardiff in 2013, they were thrashed 30-3. Guscott said that even though England beat Wales the following year at Twickenham, that away loss will still weigh heavily on the players’ minds.
“A lot of the current England team played two years ago in Cardiff when they were going for a Grand Slam,” said Guscott. “Wales tore them to bits. They won 30-3, totally dominated an inexperienced England side. Last year’s win didn’t come close to putting those demons to bed. It’s a massive game this time, because of that memory of two years ago.”
Wales v England kicks off at 8:05pm this Friday 6th February, live on BBC1. Despite the added challenge of playing away, Guscott believes that England can open the tournament with a win.
“I think England will beat Wales. I hope they’ve learned a lesson from the Australia game: they have a really good pack. Their scrum is strong, their lineout efficient, they have a great driving maul, and they can position themselves to attack. If they do that, I believe they can win in Wales. They don’t have to do too much more.”