Following the conclusion of the Champions Cup pool stages, focus is now quickly turning to the Six Nations. 2016 winners England are hot on the heels of another Grand Slam, as well as New Zealand’s record of consecutive test victories.
However, with Ireland finding form in November and a trip to Cardiff beckoning, the Red Rose may need something new to give them the edge in 2017.
Defence coach Paul Gustard may have the perfect solution, and has been training with a mixed martial arts specialist of late. As reported by the Irish Times, Gustard feels MMA can have its benefits, and some skills are transferable to the rugby field.
“It’s about improving certain aspects around the contact area, around the maul and about getting back to your feet post-tackle.
“It’s those sorts of skills that are innate in wrestling or a one-on-one combat sport and there are lots of things we can take from it.
“You always have to put it into the context of rugby, but it’s helpful to see how their bodies move and how they manipulate parts of the body to get out of contact.
“You see some things that you know won’t transfer and there are some that make you think how can we develop that, how can we explore that?
“It’s not just the tackle but also the system. Trying drills and trying games that I think might work and might illicit a certain response from the players or get a certain outcome.”
A depleted England side open their campaign at home to France in Twickenham, and they will be hoping their fighting spirit can get them over the line.