Street: Best prepared England squad ever

As we continue our major profiles ahead of the Women's Rugby World Cup, we caught up with England's head coach Gary Street.

Published by Alison Donnelly, July 6, 2010

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Street: Best prepared England squad ever

If the saying practice makes perfect translates to success on a rugby field, then England would be crowned World Champions before the start of the event next month in London.

The head coach of the home team Gary Street reckons his side are the fittest and best prepared England squad to ever compete at a World Cup and there's no question that his side come into the event as the in-form team.

Street inherited an England squad in 2007 who were still getting over the disappointment of losing the World Cup final to New Zealand in Canada. From his previous year as assistant coach, he was well aware that his players were good enough to go out and beat any side ahead of them when they were on form in the 6 Nations, but his focus from the off was on building a squad with solid enough depth to win every single game at the next World Cup.

His plans inevitably meant some upheaval to the his initial squad, with some more experienced players making way for some young guns, and with major squad rotation for the 6 Nations and Nations Cups England competed in right up the most recent competitions.

The ploy paid off though with England uncovering some now world-class younger players like Emily Scarratt and Katy McLean and with many of his players in his chosen 26 player squad able to play a host of positions, giving the English the depth Street so desired.

He believes that he is sending the best prepared squad ever to the World Cup.

"I picked the squad very early, earlier than any other of the sides at the World Cup because I was very very keen to get a lot of work done right away and the week after we named the squad we met up and talked about the plan for the weeks ahead. The girls have since been involved in what I would say is the most vigorous training they've ever done and have been put on a high intensity strength and conditioning programe. We've also been making sure that their skills work has been kept up by travelling around to oversee it all."

"It's probably been the best 6 weeks training we've had since I have been involved. We've kept it interesting for players and we've got a few top ten competitions going on which are a bit of fun but also push them a bit harder but I am confident this is the best prepared squad England have had going into a World Cup."

England's training has indeed been intense with players fitting in even more power and conditioning work around their day-jobs than ever before, and some of the statistics Street quotes is frighteningly impressive.

"The girls have been lifting 30,000 kgs a week which is outstanding and I have no doubt in saying that this is the fittest England squad we've ever had, " he explains.

Street is also satisfied that his goal of bringing a deeper pool of players to the competition has been fulfilled.

"I wanted more than just 15 outstanding players - I wanted 30 and I ended up with 34. and had to speak with 8 players who didn't make it. For the last three years we've treated each 6 Nations as a mini-World Cup rotating players and getting them in and out. Now we've got two players in almost every position and great world class back-ups and that's a great situation to be in."

On the pitch, England will have plenty of time together in the remaining weeks, with training camps taking place around the country, but Street and his back-room team have also been working on the players away from the pitch and the emphasis on their state of mind has been almost as important as their physical work.

To that end, Street has been working with the famous British sports psychologist Bill Beswick who has been a strong mentor in his coaching career to date.

Street says that Beswick, who has worked with a range of top athletes in the UK including the Manchester United squad, has been a great sounding board.

"He talks to us a lot about making sure not to overcoach or over train and we will be using him at our camps. He says 'when you're done you're done' and that's been good advice so we get out there, get our training done and get off the park."

"What I really want is the squad to come into the competition flying. I can't garauntee that we'll win it but I can make sure we are as prepared as we can be and we'll see how the cards fall in September."

Street, who pays special mention to the support of his wife Helen who many years ago was also an England player, says that while his team don't think about the potential of playing New Zealand in the final, he has thought plenty about why the Black Ferns have tended to have the upper hand over everyone else in big competitions.

"I think before that game knowledge was a big difference between the squads. The girls in New Zealand had been playing since they were kids and it always showed in end. Our players up to recently had taken the game up later, and we were basically coaching athletes how to be rugby players instead of the other way around. That's changed now.

"Players like Nolli Waterman, Katie McLean and Emily Scarrett have been playing since they were very young - Katy's been involved in rugby for 20 years! That's starting to show now in tight games and in our decisions overall . These are girls now with big rugby backgrounds and I am confident when the going gets tough like it was against France this year, it's making a difference."

If England do get to the final and face the Black Ferns this year, that difference will need to show and if the home team come out on top, they can certainly claim to have caught up with the experience of side who have historically known what to do when they need it most.