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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 10:22 GMT
England players skip the old routine
By Sarah Holt

England captain Martin Johnson
England fans are primed to pour through the turnstiles this weekend just to catch a glimpse of their World Cup-winning heroes back in domestic action.

The adoring public could be disappointed, however, as many players who were at the heart of England's historic victory are expected to be rested.

But why do the men who battled past Australia need to take a time-out?


Beating the body clock

Nearly 100 minutes of intense rugby might be tiring but add to that a night of celebration in downtown Sydney swiftly followed by a 20-hour flight back to London and every England player has reason to be exhausted.

Their body clocks will have been disrupted by flying across several time zones - although the fact they were flying from east to west softens the effect, according to studies by US space agency Nasa into long-haul pilots.

Jet lag can also affect your judgement which would not help when you need to be on top of your kicking and tackling.

Experts say for every hour in time difference you need a day to recover which means the England players will not be back to their peak fitness until 11 days after the final - next Wednesday.


Thinking straight

Clive Woodward's 30-man squad are physically streets ahead of the competition but sporting achievement also requires mental strength and focus.

Neil Back signs an autograph for two policemen
Two policemen test Neil Back's alertness by asking him for an autograph
The players have now resumed training with their clubs to maintain their physical sharpness but recovering from mental exhaustion can take longer.

"Immediately after the euphoria of victory there must be some sort of psychological fatigue - a let down," explains Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University.

"For the first couple of games there could be a problem. At a subconscious level they may be incapable of giving 100%.

"But it will be a short-term dip because these are driven people, they are self-selected winners."


Post-England blues

Unlike England's footballers, the rugby internationals spend a substantial part of the year as a team unit.

The squad were together for almost four months in preparation for last Saturday's triumph.

While many of the England players are also club team-mates, severing ties and shifting focus to domestic affairs could be difficult.

"They have been living in a vacuum, isolated as part of a team for so long," said Misia Gervis, a sports psychologist from Brunel University's Institute of Coaching and Performance.

"They will need a period of adjustment."

Cooper suggests the players could feel disorientated without England's support network.

"Clive Woodward has built up a really close-knit family so the players will experience a divorce and may go through a grieving process," he said.


The weight of expectation

Jonny Wilkinson admitted he was overwhelmed by the response after England dramatically seized the Webb-Ellis trophy thanks to his drop-goal.

Jonny Wilkinson faces the media with the World Cup trophy at his side
Was it worth it? Wilkinson's heroics have thrust him into the spotlight
But the fly-half had better get used to the limelight as every kick he makes for Newcastle from now on will be open to scrutiny.

Sitting out this weekend's action on the bench or in the stands will allow the weight of expectation that now surrounds the England team to sink in.

"Working towards the World Cup was their job, it was what they were trained for," said Gervis.

"But the players will have been unprepared for the reaction that has come with their success.

"They will be feeling the same but won't understand why people are behaving differently toward them.

"To expect them to walk from the experience and to not be affected is a bit naive."


Clubbing together

But not everything points to skipping their club games being the best idea for England's stars, according to psychologists.

England's rugby players did not win the World Cup by showing mental or physical weakness when it mattered.

You can be sure old hands like captain Martin Johnson and Jason Leonard will be ready to take up the cause for their respective clubs Leicester and Harlequins.

A return to the less glamorous domestic game could also bring a reprieve for the England stars who consider each match as important as the next and who refuse to be judged on a single moment in history.

"They may have won the World Cup but they know their job isn't finished yet this season," said Jervis.

"The internationals have key roles to play for their clubs and they will be going back to an environment where they have been appreciated and supported for many years."




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