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By ARU Media Unit
Former Wallaby George Gregan speaks to the ARU Media Unit on his Test career and how the game has evolved since his retirement. He also discusses how he felt about Brian O'Driscoll surpassing his record of most capped Test player.
ARU: You have a long and well recognised Test career, how did the game change throughout your time with the Wallabies?
George: The game changed considerably from when I started my Test career in 1994 in that semi-amateur time frame with Bob Dwyer and a very successful Wallaby team. But Bob and that team really revolutionised things in the way we prepared and played – there was a big emphasis on putting the best possible preparation and facilities in for the team, which I think was a catalyst for Rugby going to another level of professionalism.
There was a big focus on training programs and nutrition plans, so it was quite ahead of its time in 1994 compared to what it evolved to by the time I finished in 2007 when there was more of an emphasis on things like skin folds and training. Everyone knew how much they were running in training and the speed of their running. They also had individualised programs focused specifically on their needs and were given the best possible chance to physically play well.
We also saw the introduction of team training camps. These were based in Coffs Harbour [with Dwyer] and Caloundra with Rob McQueen, and were designed so that we had a really focused and professional environment.
So it did evolve quite a lot, and it still keeps on evolving. Today I look at the size of the players, the speed with which they move and the physicality of the game. You think, where is the ceiling on this game? Eventually they will get there, but they don’t seem to have yet.
ARU: What has been the biggest change you have seen since retirement?
George: Probably body shapes, because everyone trains professionally and there is an emphasis on nutrition and resistance training and getting yourself as physically prepared as you can. It is a combative game, so you see right across the board – from 1 to 15 – everyone’s body shapes have changed athletically.
There were maybe a handful of guys when I first started who were pretty professional and diligent in the way that they trained, but now everyone in the squad has to train that way to remain competitive. The bi-product of that is a noticeable change in people’s physiques. Also the fact that Rugby is a career and they train full time.
ARU: We have recently seen O’Driscoll overtake you as the most capped Test player of all time. Will we see you lacing up the boots anytime soon to reclaim that title?
George: [Laughs] No! The record was always going to be broken, but it couldn’t have been broken by a better player and a better guy really. He is a champion person and a wonderful player and still contributing in a big way to the teams that he is playing with, and obviously the Irish. In that last Test match he was phenomenal. It is a credit to him the way he went about playing.
But it might get surpassed by someone like a Richie McCaw who, if he continues playing and doesn’t get injured between now and when he does hang up his boots, he will probably set another benchmark which will be very, very hard to go past. They are the types of people that you’d like to see go past any sort of record.