Football and rugby at the elite level came together again when Antonio Conte and his staff paid a visit yesterday (Wednesday) to observe the England rugby union squad’s preparations for this weekend’s international.
Back in April, the England head coach Eddie Jones and his forwards coach Steve Borthwick came to Cobham to observe Chelsea’s training and facilities when Guus Hiddink was in charge, and this week a reciprocal invitation for a similar fact-finding visit was accepted by our current boss.
The two teams involved certainly have in common the ability to build a winning run. Chelsea recorded 13 straight league victories earlier this season and England’s rugby XV are currently 16 matches undefeated. Twenty-four hours after we take on Swansea this weekend at Stamford Bridge, Conte’s native Italy are the next to try their luck at Twickenham.
England Rugby’s training base, Pennyhill Park, is situated just 14 miles across Surrey from Cobham and also meeting Conte and his assistants there yesterday were England fly-half George Ford (pictured top, second from the left) who is a big Chelsea supporter and has spoken to the official Chelsea website during one of his visits to a home game. Jones has revealed to us he is a bit of a Blues fan too.
Captain Dylan Hartley (pictured below to the right of Conte) and Owen Farrell (top far left) are other players pictured.
Conte spoke about how he benefited from the visit, saying: ‘For me it was very interesting to observe another sport and the differences between the two such as the physical aspect to their training as well as speak with Eddie Jones about the analysis side to the game.
‘It is important for me to compare my work and experience with another sport to gain inspiration and tactical ideas for the future.’
‘I learnt about how detailed the preparation is in rugby through video analysis as well as the physical element to the sport.’
The Italian was full of praise for Jones, who is unbeaten since taking charge of England.
'We spoke about our experience and it was very interesting to speak to him,' he said. 'Eddie is a winner and he is transferring that mentality onto the team.'