The “Biggest” Rugby World Cup Ever

Statistics show that this year’s Rugby World Cup could be the biggest yet; featuring 6ft 4, 120kg giants like Georgian born Mamuka Gorgodze or England’s own 110kg centre Manu Tuilagi. But how have players of the modern game become supersized versions of their predecessors? looks into the latest developments in rugby nutrition and supplementation and gets key insights from World Cup wining England Strength and Conditioning Coach Dave Reddin.

Reddin says “ever since the early days of professionalism, there has been a big change in the shape of players, their bodyweights and their body compositions. Pre-professionalism it seems the average back would have weighed 80-85kg, now it’s more like 95-100kg with former England winger Ben Cohen weighing almost 110kg.”

But it’s important to note, as the players weight has gone up, their body fat has gone down, ‘in the amateur days, body fat for an average back would have been around 12 to 15%, now it’s closer to 10% revealing that while players are gaining more weight, a huge proportion of that increase is muscle.’ This indicates the need for ‘functional strength’ since often bigger doesn’t always mean stronger.

Reddin uses the example of 71kg Olympic triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, who despite being 40kg less than some of the England team, is able to squat more weight than even the 120kg props. He states ‘we are trying to get a balance between the two points; any increase in weight has to be accompanied by an increase in strength.’ Living proof of this functional strength is 125kg England Prop Andrew Sheridan who boasts a near-elite class bench press of 225kg and a 275kg squat. (At 20 years old Manu Tuilagi is rumoured to have a 190kg bench press.)

So how are coaches and nutritionists supersizing rugby players? Firstly it seems players are now just better informed with regard to sports nutrition. Looking specifically at protein, rugby players require a greater intake of protein to not only increase lean muscle mass but also prevent the catabolic breakdown of muscle too. 20 years ago this wasn’t known and a player wasn’t getting a sufficient intake of protein, however more recently in 2003 the International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition stated ‘strength athletes were recommended to consume 1.7grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.’ For a 100kg rugby player this equates to 170 grams of protein per day (usually broken down into 6 meals spaced roughly 2 hours apart throughout the day, each containing 28.33 grams of protein each.) (1kg of Whey Protein is available from for £12.99)

Also there have been notable advances in sports nutrition such as Creatine. Creatine was first discovered as a potential sports supplement in 1912 at Harvard University by researchers Otto Folin and Willey Glover Denis, however it wasn’t until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona where Linford Christie famously used creatine leading up to the games to fuel his 100m gold medal winning performance. It was found that creatine could enhance your body’s ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) stores, which in turn can increase the strength, speed and size of the muscle. Ever since, creatine has been used by back row players to increase speed and explosive strength and front row players to increase strength and power. (250g of Creatine is available from for £3.99)

Secondly there is the supplement Glutamine, which unlike many sports supplements, was first used clinically with intensive care patients since it was shown to dramatically improve recovery. In fact research at the Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research at the University College of Dublin found the immune boosting properties of glutamine were so impressive, it was used to treat patients with inflammatory conditions such as infection and injury. Now it’s used by almost all elite rugby players to help improve recovery after every training session or match, since as pointed out by Dave Reddin, ‘Players are much faster and stronger now and therefore the impact in the tackle is going to be that much greater. So inevitably you are going to see more contact injuries.’(250g of Glutamine is available from for £5.49)

by Ross Edgley.

(For more information visit