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Wales count on survival of fittest

Monday 19 September 2011, 5:27PM

By Rugby World Cup 2011

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Rhys Priestland says their improved fitness has increased Wales' self-belief
Rhys Priestland says their improved fitness has increased Wales' self-belief Credit: Rugby World Cup 2011

HAMILTON

Two brutal training camps in the lead-up to Rugby World Cup 2011 were the key to Wales' 17-10 victory over Samoa at Waikato Stadium on Sunday, according to second row Luke Charteris.

Charteris said the camps were far from a pleasant experience but the players were now reaping the benefits, with the victory in Hamilton giving their prospects of qualifying for the quarter-finals from Pool D a huge boost.

"It was woeful," he said. "We were all thinking, 'what are we doing here?' We were cursing the coach.

"But it was worth it because we were able to play the full 80 minutes (against Samoa). That gives us a great deal of confidence."

The camps were held at the Olympic Health Centre at Spala in central Poland, one of the most advanced sports facilities in Europe.

Reward for effort

Players were subjected to three or four lung-bursting sessions each day on the track and in the gym, weight training and exposure to temperatures of -140 degrees Celsius in a cryotherapy chamber.

The aim of the programme was to speed recovery times and increase stamina, and it seems to have worked.

"Our whole World Cup was about going out in that second half (against Samoa) and digging deep. And they did that," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

"I thought our conditioning was great. The longer the game went on, the stronger and fitter we looked."

Defence coach Shaun Edwards agreed the conditioning regime had turned the team around.

"We would have definitely lost that game 12 months ago," he said.
Mental toughness

Fly half Rhys Preistland said being in better physical condition had given the players greater confidence."We knew we were going into the game in good physical shape and towards the end that started to tell."

It is not only physical conditioning that Wales have achieved. There also seems to be a higher degree of mental toughness.

At the time of the camps, captain Sam Warburton spoke of one player's fear of the cryotherapy chamber.

"It didn’t help me to see one of the senior boys freaking out and banging to get out on his first attempt," he said. "It was totally understandable, but we haven’t let him forget it either."

With pool matches against Namibia and Fiji standing between them and a place in the quarter-finals, the squad believe their fitness levels could give them a vital edge over rivals at the business end of the tournament.