Tom Rees Column
Adapting to change
October 29, 2009
Tom Rees does not believe that physicality is overtaking skill © Getty Images
Firstly, thank you to the Perpignan fan who explained the 92 in Racing Metro 92 to me, turns out it's the French department (a kind of county/postcode thing) in which the club plays, and for an email from America, with a reading suggestion. This serves to satisfy my curiosity, give me something else to pass the time, and let me know that my readership extends beyond my mother.
I'm now exactly three weeks post surgery on my shoulder and while I'm still in a sling for another week, I'm able to take it off when at home and things are feeling good. I'm back in the club doing rehab on a regular basis working with the physios, and my programme has been upgraded to give a two-year-old at least a bit of a challenge.
I've also had the actual operation explained to me in some detail, and while the surgeon did this the morning after the operation, I was floating along on a cocktail of painkillers and didn't really take any of it in. Without going into too much detail and using medical terms that I don't understand, I've had a process of a piece of bone sawn off from my shoulder and screwed onto the socket to create a block that will stabilise the joint and in the process, muscles, ligaments and tendons were cut and /or moved.
The thing that amazes me the most, next to the skill of the surgeons to come up with and perform such a procedure, is that my body will just adapt to the changes. I've been opened up, the anatomy of my shoulder changed and provided I work through the rehab, if it weren't for the five-inch scar, I'd be none the wiser.
I've always been fascinated with biology and think that had I not been a rugby player I might have tried to become a doctor, as the things that the human body can cope with are just incredible. The best story of adaptation I've heard so far involved London Wasps legend Trevor Leota. A couple of years before I arrived at Wasps Trevor injured his knee and it turned out he had torn his ACL, which is about as serious as knee injuries get and normally involves surgery and six-nine months recovery.
Trev was playing again in two weeks. Now, this could be down to a number of things, not least that Trevor's legs are the thickness of most people's waists and only about two foot long, but I still find it amazing that his body was able to cope.
Now that I'm back in at the club I've started some very simple, body weight leg exercises as a precursor to some weight training in the next couple of weeks, which brings us nicely to one of the ongoing debates in rugby, that of the gym monkey.
There are concerns that rugby players will forgo the skill aspects of the game in favour of the physical, but I think that people are simply overreacting. Last week Simon Shaw was interviewed on the subject, and gave some honest answers, that were taken a bit out of context.
There is no debating that since the game turned professional and players became full time, there has been a far larger focus on weight training than before. I know that at Wasps the weight training is a supplementary to the rugby training we do and that in the same way some players are pulled from rugby sessions to manage knocks and fatigue, players are pulled from weights sessions because they don't need to do any more.
Added to that we have a full time skills coach, who works one on one and with the team in any area that needs work. It was certainly clever to speak to Simon on this subject, as while he is one the most skilful players around, he's also 6'9'' and 20 stone before he's even looked at a weight, which frankly isn't fair!
On the pitch the team has returned to Premiership action after a good first fortnight in the Challenge Cup and put in probably our most complete performance of the season together away at Gloucester. They are having a difficult start to the season, but Kingsholm is never an easy place to go and play and to pick up a try bonus as well as shut Gloucester out was a huge achievement.
When Serge Betsen was receiving the Man of the Match award after the game, I couldn't help but laugh as the interviewer pointed out he'd made 15 tackles and he looked slightly embarrassed. Many will have taken this as the great humility that Serge is known for, but I thought it was more to do with him having made 26 tackles the last time he played and he felt he was slacking. This week we face Leeds at home, who pushed Saracens very close last week, and will no doubt come to Adams Park looking to go one further. One possible boost to us is that there are rumours that Simon Shaw has broken out from the gym, and may be available for selection, we'll wait and see.