In his final column of 2019 for Talking Rugby Union, Charlie Beckett reveals what it is like to be a rugby player at Christmas and his hopes for Jersey Reds this weekend.
In the immortal words of Noddy Holder... IT’S CHRIIIIIIISTMAS!
Yes ladies and gents it is that time of the year again, so get out your stockings, put on your corniest of jumpers and get ready for ‘Uncle Keith’ to drink too much and ruin the family board game when it’s not going his way. Every year he promises he’s changed, but every year it quickly becomes clear, he hasn’t...
However, while there are plenty of things to get excited about around Christmas, please spare a moment to think about all the professional rugby players across the world. While everyone else is enjoying their Christmas completely care free and without a stress in the world, the rugby players amongst you, while they may look happy on the outside, will in fact be hiding a true inner turmoil.
This is because there will be two words constantly tormenting them in their brain. Two words that, despite it being the time of year that is most full of joy and happiness, they just will not be able to shake. Two words, that in short, have the potential to ruin their entire Christmas. Those two words are... ‘skin folds’.
Great fun having Luc, Lum and Liam on The Red Alert podcast yesterday, if you fancy a listen and a good laugh for just under an hour, the podcast is out now on Apple podcasts and Spotify ?? https://t.co/BXh7m10tO4— Charlie Beckett (@Charlie_Beckett) December 18, 2019
For those of you who aren’t aware, skin folds are the most commonly used method of body composition testing used amongst professional rugby clubs. Essentially, the S&C staff will get out their metal callipers (which are always far too cold) and test just how fat you are by pinching your skin. I’m afraid, there is no hiding from the callipers, while Santa is finding out who is ‘naughty or nice’ this Christmas, when players get back from their breaks, S&C staff will be finding out who’s lean and who is fat.
Personally for me, the post-Christmas skin fold testing means that I have learnt, the hard way, that enough is enough when it comes to the mince pies and post-Christmas dinner cheese board. For others it may mean laying off the selection boxes, staying away from the Baileys or for certain ‘big boys’ (props I am looking at you) all of the above. There are always some nervous faces when the callipers come out in January... that you can be certain of!
A win is the perfect present
Christmas is traditionally seen as the ‘half way point’ in the Championship season, and where a team is sitting in the league at Christmas is often taken as a good prediction for where they may be come May. Now this year is slightly different though. The season started late because of the World Cup, and we have played six cup games already so come the 25th of December, only seven of the 22 league games will have been played.
However, the league is starting to take shape and depending on our result, and others around us this weekend, we at the Jersey Reds could find ourselves in the best position we ever have been at this stage of the year.
A win this weekend against London Scottish could see us sitting as high as second or third in the table depending on the results in the Ealing vs Newcastle and Pirates vs Hartpury games.
However, a win for us is anything but a done deal. London Scottish are a very strong side and have caused us a lot of problems in the past, in particular last season when they recorded a league double over us both home and away. We will have to be at our very best to get a win on Saturday, but hopefully the Stade Santander will be packed out and rocking with Christmas cheer come 5pm!
Off the field though, unfortunately we have a fairly busy physio room at the moment. In my eight years as a professional I’ve never quite seen anything like it. The injuries some of our lads have been suffering our freak accident ‘once a season’ sort of injuries, and we’ve had numerous at the same time.
For example, in the last few months we have had players suffer a snapped ACL, a dislocated elbow, two broken arms, a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg, a broken ankle and a torn plantar fascia. However, our medical team have been doing a fantastic job with all the lads and it has shown the immense strength in depth in our squad that despite these injuries, we have still been turning in strong performances and getting good results at the weekend. I wouldn’t want to be the coaches when we have the full squad fit again, selection is going to be a nightmare!
A time for reflection…
Also, as we come to Christmas and the end of the year and decade it would be remiss of me to not reflect on these past 10 years from a personal point of view. Ten years ago, I was a 14 year old chubby teenager who dreamt every day of being a professional rugby player.
Fast forward 10 years and I am living that dream every single day. I’ve said on the TRU podcast and in my column before that playing in the Championship isn’t where I want to be and the aim is to one day be back playing for a Premiership club, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love what I do.
Every single day I turn up to work and get to do my favourite thing in the world, which is playing rugby, and I get to do it with my best mates. I think sometimes, we as rugby players can lose sight of that, but I truly believe we are living the dream and never at any point take it for granted. I am extremely lucky and I don’t think 14-year-old me would quite believe you if you told him what the next ten years would have in store for him!
From me, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to speaking to you all again in 2020.
Oh and of course... come on you Reds!