The Founders Column – Alex Cuthbert


“Brutal” is probably the best word to describe a pre-World Cup training camp with Wales. Brutal, exhausting, but necessary.

We are a few weeks into ours now and there have been few surprises – at least not for us older boys who knew that we would be worked extremely hard, harder than we have been worked for a long time.

For the younger guys, they are probably being pushed to limits they have never been pushed to before. Welcome to Camp Gatland, base camp from which we aim to scale the heights of the World Cup.

We have camps in Switzerland and Turkey in July, some warm-up matches in August, and then the lucky survivors are off to France.

So, how hard is it? Well, we went to Qatar for a nine-day training camp before the 2015 World Cup and I still break into a sweat just thinking about it.

We were outside doing a session that lasted about an hour in temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees and extreme humidity. There was a passing drill – simple enough, normally – but every time we made a mistake in the heat, we had to do it all over again.

We were on our knees, my boots were so full of sweat, it felt like I was running in a swimming pool. On the scale of horribly hard training sessions, that one would get 10 out of 10.

So, those memories have all been coming back over these last few weeks.

To be fair, I did some pre-seasons that were pretty horrific when I was playing at Exeter. They were eye-openers compared to pre-seasons I had done in the past.

You might ask, why are the Welsh regional pre-seasons not as demanding as the Wales pre-World Cup summers? It’s a fair question.

I think the answer is that normally, Wales squad players are touring with Wales in these months, so the international players miss most of the hardest regional sessions. By the time we have had our rest periods, we are almost straight into playing matches. But here’s the good news about these brutal Wales sessions before a World Cup. They work.

Warren Gatland is a very demanding coach, he wants an awful lot from us, but it has worked well in the past – before the tournaments in 2011, 2015 and 2019 – and it can do so again.

He’s shown that when he gets us together for long periods, works us hard, that’s when we respond by playing our best.

We have lost a lot of experience with some of the older guys stepping back and the new boys are going to have to really step up.

But Warren has got it right before at tournaments in the past. If you look at his record at previous World Cup tournaments, it’s a pretty good one.

We got further than England in 2011 and 2015, we always seem to do better than Ireland at World Cups, so he must be doing something right.

Brutal, as I say. But it works.