The BeRugby big interview with Phil Vickery.
Phil Vickery the World Cup winning prop and Wooden Spoon ambassador talks to BeRugby magazine. He played 73 times for England and represented Gloucester and Wasps at club level. It’s fair to say he knows his rugby.
BeRugby Magazine – Thanks for talking to us today Phil. The Six Nations tournament is here. What makes it such a special tournament?
Phil Vickery – It has to be the heritage of the event and its history. There is a great camaraderie despite the differences between the countries and their histories. It is so competitive and passionate. I am proud to be English/British but I played the game and walked off the pitch with friendships. The tournament is full of tears and laughter!
BRM – You have played in many great Six Nations games. What is your highlight out of these?
PV – Captaining England against Ireland for the first game in Croke Park which is home of the Gaelic Football association. The tension before the game due to political events and the press build up had everyone worried. They were worried about playing the English National anthem in case something happened. In the end the crowd were silent respecting the anthem. That is rugby for you. Proud, respectful and passionate. It’s what I love about the game.
BRM – This year’s Six Nations sees the introduction of a bonus point system. Do you think this will improve or detract from the competition?
PV – It makes a positive impact to the Premiership so I think it will be fine in the Six Nations. In the Six Nations people will just get on with the game anyway so it’s not always about bonus points. Look at the previous year’s final weekends, there were no bonus points but tons of tries. If you have positive players and positive coaches you will get a positive outcome.
BRM – Who were the toughest opponents during your time in the Six Nations?
PV – I couldn’t say any one team was the toughest. As an England team any away game is hard as everyone wants to beat you. The French were always tough though, particularly the forwards.
BRM – Who was the best player you faced in the Six Nations?
PV – I was lucky to have played in an era of some very good players. Brian O’Driscoll is up there as the greatest player ever. Paul O’Connell as well in the Irish team. Gregor Townsend of Scotland. Thomas Castaignede and Christian Califano of France and of course Serge Betsen. The Welsh guys Alun Wyn Jones and Gethin Jenkins. I could go on.
BRM – You are well known for your love of food and cooking. What foodie advice would you give to young rugby players?
PV – I read a lot about food fads but you just need a good balanced diet. Get plenty of fruit, fibre and veg. The most important thing that often gets overlook is water. You must drink enough and stay hydrated. It’s not a food but sleep is also hugely important. It’s needed so your body fixes itself.
BRM – Did you have any rugby superstitions or pre-match rituals?
PV – I used to when I was younger and I stopped when I realised it didn’t work! Just make sure you are prepped and get your work done. Don’t lose out because you haven’t prepared.
BRM – What was your favourite pre-match meal?
PV – I was nervous before a game and didn’t enjoy eating but I would have the biggest bowl of porridge and that would give me confidence.
BRM – What (if anything) did you find the hardest about playing rugby.
PV – I think I had it easier when I played. Young people have it tough now with social media and the pressure it brings. 99 percent of players are amateurs yet everyone expects to be a pro player. For instance, you’re a good tennis player but if you aren’t Andy Murray then you’re a failure. Keep the faith and get through the tough times and believe in yourself. Be positive and enjoy the sport. The only failure is not participating. You can be the best you can by playing for your club and community.
BRM – Many of our young readers dream of being a pro rugby player. What advice would you give them?
PV – Be the best you can be and enjoy it. If you enjoy it then all the emotion and all the hurt, the losing and the winning is all the same. Don’t let people judge you and tell you you’re a failure.
BRM – You are organising the rugby tour. Where are we going and why?
PV – It would have to be New Zealand as they live to play rugby. But we would stop off in South Africa to get acclimatised and couldn’t miss the South Sea Islands on the way. Italy is beautiful as well and of course Cornwall. It’s the whole rugby family.
BRM – The tour bus breaks down. Who are the three players you would want with you?
PV – Someone clever. Maybe Kieran Bracken as he could talk posh on the phone. Mark Regan as he’s a bit dumb so we could take the micky out of him. We would need Captain sensible to lead us out of trouble as well so Richard Hill.
BRM – Is there anything that you would change about mini/junior rugby?
PV – Stop channelling them in one sport. Get them out running and involved in other team activities all in a positive light. Teach, learn, inspire, motivate.
BRM – If you could use one word to describe rugby what would it be?
PV – Awesome!
Our thanks go to Phil Vickery for talking to us and giving us his time. Legend!