One-man hit show of hero used to prepare Wales for England match

One-man hit show of hero used to prepare Wales for England match

In 1990, in the lead-up to Natal’s first Currie Cup title at the near-impenetrable Fort Loftus against what was then Northern Transvaal, the Durbanites’ coach Ian McIntosh lifted his team by getting his team mentally prepared by a psychologist, Ken Jennings.

Jennings, brother of wicketkeeper Ray who played in the South African matches against rebel touring teams, did exactly that.

It was a rather new ploy then, with psychologists coming more and more to the fore in preparing the team for the big moment.

But the Wales rugby side went one step further this week before their potential Six Nations decider against England at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

The Welsh management namely invited actor Gareth Bale into England’s changing room on Monday night to perform a special version of his one-man show 'Grav', according to WalesOline.

It was close to the players’ hearts, something what they wanted to hear. Actor Bale’s play tells the patriotic story of the late Ray ‘Grav’ Gravell, huge line-busting centre and one of the nation’s best-loved rugby players and personalities.

He had diabetes and had had a leg amputated and died in 2007 at the age of just 56 from a heart attack while on a family holiday.

It was a private showing with most of the Wales squad and management present in the away dressing room championship leaders England will use on Saturday for the top of the table clash.

It included 'Grav's' words about his anxieties ahead of a big game and how he overcame them ‒ and it was worth the while, according to Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde.

“We should have played (England) straight after that, to be honest with you. It really put us in a good place mentally wise,” he said to WalesOnline. “To have the players have that experience just reminded you of the reasons why some of us play rugby and why some of us who don’t play it any more miss it so much.

“It was a great way to kick off the week to really focus people’s minds but we don’t want to burn ourselves out emotionally and have to put it to bed until we draw on that experience on Saturday.

“When Grav (Bale) was talking and the anthem was played behind him, he was talking through his own emotions.

“He was just brutally honest about himself with regard to the insecurities he had but the ability to overcome them because once you have aired those insecurities and the questions that even the best players in the world ask themselves, they come up with the answers and they come through it.

“It was good for some of the players to just listen in (through Bale) on one of the best and most passionate rugby players that Wales has produced and to listen to those fears and doubts where ultimately being part of a team, where just a few words from Delme Thomas (former Llanelli captain), ‘are you with me?', grounded him. They were enough.”

“England are a big test and we are going to have to be at our best. Like Grav (Bale) was saying last night, when Carwyn James (coach) was speaking to them (Llanelli before they beat the 1972 All Blacks) as a team, we have to got to think, think, think and we have got to do that for 80 plus minutes.

“We have got to be on top of our game – there’s no hiding place on Saturday!"

And they believe this show and Gravell’s words will see them through...