Right, give me your brief playing history, you’re in France with Bourgoin now, how did you get there and how have you found it?
I started properly playing rugby at 18. Before that it was more of a social thing as most of my mates were doing it. I got a rugby
scholarship off the back of an athletics competition in Fiji and moved to New Zealand for high school.
I then went onto university in Otago and played club rugby for the university side whilst a part of the Otago rugby academy and got 1 NPC game.
From there I moved back up to Auckland and played club rugby for Ponsonby before leaving for Australia to work. I then got offered a trial for the Fiji 7s team and was in that setup for just over a year after which rugby plateaued out.
I was leaning towards quitting but agreed to play some 7s over summer with the Templars and as luck would have it a club in France was after an outside back and a good friend of mine happened to know the guy that was recruiting for the club. I came over, did some testing and have been here since 2011.
What sort of training did you do at school? You’ve always had some good shape from when I’ve known you…
I was more into athletics until just before I turned 18 so I was doing a lot of speed work and running technique as well as some explosive work for sprinting and the high jump. When I got the rugby scholarship I started training with a guy that used to train the Canterbury Crusaders and was with Fiji rugby as an observer at the time. I had absolutely no gym strength and weighed 70kg on a good day. He got me into lifting heavy weights at low reps and high sets and also introduced me to olympic lifting.
I was doing only 4 exercises at each session and eating anything and everything I could get my hands on. In a few months my power went through the roof and my weight did too – 110KG at 18 years old and I was a winger!! My endurance was terrible but I clocked a PB of 10.95 in the 100m. I eventually got down to 100kg with a lot of conditioning work and was able to play and be effective at school boy rugby.
There is no way i could play at 100kg now in a professional competition. I wouldn’t last very long.
Looking back, i never did any prehab or stability work for rotator cuffs and other areas that are usually ignored. I was lucky not to badly injure myself by going right into heavy lifting but it’s something I’m aware of now and work on everyday before doing a big gym session. That early lifting did set a good base for my strength and power though.
Did you always think you’d end up playing in europe?
I always wanted to play in France but i didnt know how it would happen. Hard work, a clear goal and some luck helped me get here.
Right, gym talk!
You said you were lucky not to get injured when you were younger but you’ve picked up a few injuries since being in France, any lessons learned?
Yes I’ve had my fair share and it was all in my first year of coming back into 15s from 7s. I tried to get my playing weight back up to 100kg and that led to all my leg injuries that kept me out most of that first season. Not only was I unable to be as effective as possible for the full 80 minutes, it was also too much of a load for my legs to carry all week and in a professional game on the weekend.
My playing weight now is 92kg and it makes a huge difference not having to carry an extra 8kg around all week and then for 80 minutes on the weekend. My speed endurance is a lot better, I recover quicker and am playing my best footy.
So Mass/Weight isn’t always the answer….. What are you favourite lifts?
My favourites are squats, power cleans and deadlifts mainly because they all benefit your full body as compared to other exercises which may only target one area. I’ve also noticed that I’ve done my fastest speed testing when I’m hitting PB’s on my power cleans.
Give us your numbers….
For power cleans my PB in testing is 150kg for 1 rep and in training I usually do between 100 and 120kg for 4 sets of 4 reps.
My PB for deadlifts is 250kg (using a trap bar). We hardly do deadlifts in season I’m guessing because of the high workload on the legs [TJ: and lower back] but i will usually try and do some on our day off.
For squats my PB is 200 for 1 rep. In training i usually do between 120 and 150kg for 4 sets of 4 reps.
So you’re training weight depends on how physical the game went and how well you recover?
Yea, it’s highly dependant on how I feel so if I’m involved a lot in the game or the pitch training sessions get long and tough then I’ll alter my lifts to ease the load on my legs as the focus is always on being ready for the game – particularly from mid season onwards as theres 30 pool games in the regular season here in France!
Im very lucky our trainer has flown himself to the southern hemisphere and done pre seasons with some super rugby sides so he’s very up to date and very open minded.
We do a lot of old school running in pre season – hills etc but also mix it up with some tough crossfit-type fitness challenges, boxing etc so it keeps everyone mentally fresh. It also builds team mental toughness.
That’s great to hear, France used to be very old school – I remember when I played a trial there, we had to have wine before a game…
All the wines are saved for after the games but there’s a good number of guys that don’t drink then so its a good sign of a change in attitude and approach.
If you were to name one thing that you’ve been doing since moving to France made a big difference to your performance, what would it be?
Eating a lot better, stretching more and focussing more on recovery, nutrition and hydration. It makes all the difference in the way I feel, train and play. Training hard just isn’t enough on its own.
I know you train a lot of extras on your own? Can you go through any basics that you do consistently?
I enjoy working on skills I’m not good at like kicking and proper timing and technique under the high ball. I put a lot of time into that but I was told that you should always work on your strengths as thats what comes naturally and is your “go to” when either you or the team need to pull something out of the hat. So I also do a lot of extra speed work – usually just explosive stuff over the first 10 – 20 meters. I’ve seen how speed can turn a game and it’s a great asset to have.
In the gym I like to do core strengthening work. We do a lot of sit ups and weighted twists but I don’t think sitting down and doing core work is relevant to rugby so i try and see what top teams in other sports do and incorporate that into my training.
Yea we like a lot of core work done standing too..
Favourite gym tune?
At the moment its Kanye West – Black Skinhead. From the wolf of wall street.
Nice! Favourite post-gym meal?
I don’t really have one so I guess it depends on what time of day I do a session. Breakfast is always high protein – eggs or ham and an avocado, black coffee, orange juice and some water. I don’t have much carbs at breakfast – maybe some oats or weetbix if I feel like it I know it’s a tough day ahead. At lunch I’ll have some lean meat, veg and some rice or pasta and dinner is always lean meat and loads of veg, if I want some carbs here I’ll usually go for sweet potato. After a gym session I’ll have a protein shake, some BCAAs and glutamine.
Nice, sounds like a good, simple diet. I’d just add in here that the glutamine is pretty much completely absorbed by the gut and never actually makes it to the muscle, it’s great for digestion purposed but never improves recovery too much.
Favourite cheat meal?
A few pints, burger and fries at a good pub.
Audentes fortuna iuvat – Fortune favours the bold.
Who inspires you the most?
This may sound cocky to a lot of people but I inspire myself. It’s something I tried doing a couple of years ago and stems from the belief that if you can’t motivate and inspire yourself to get up and chase your dreams then nothing else will.
I do keep a lot of motivational quotes and read books on successful people that I look up to but that has to be an extension of a belief that already exists within yourself.
Beyond that, I admire Johnny Wilkinson for what he’s achieved through simple things like hard work, perseverance and discipline. And my mum and dad also inspire me but for very personal reasons and experiences I don’t usually share.
What do you like to do away from training and do you find it helps?
I like to read, write, get to the beach for a swim or some fishing if i can or just spend time alone or with friends and family. Full movie days on the couch is always a favourite but not too often as it isn’t very productive.
I also enjoy a few good beers. When I was younger it was always full steam ahead with training and i fully believed the saying “no pain no gain” but now I get away from it whenever I can. Ive realized how important having that balance is, not just in keeping you mentally fresh for training and games but for health and life in general.
Great point!! I find that the taking the constant focus away and doing other stuff makes the training even better…
Last thing, if you have one more piece of advice for someone who wants to be the best rugby player they can be, what would it be?
Work hard, do at least one thing each day that takes you one step towards at least one of your goals and don’t waste your time or energy on people and things that may hold you back. Also, keep it all in perspective and have other interests especially ones you can fall back on if the dream doesn’t work out or gets cut short through injury.
Don’t take it too seriously – At the end of the day it’s only a small part of life.