- Friday Funnies takes a light-hearted look at England's preparations
- Gurns, grimaces and grins from the front-row union
On Tuesday lunchtime at Pennyhill Park, Stuart Lancaster articulated England's approach to fitness work during this period of Rugby World Cup preparation. Sessions have combined old-fashioned graft with drills that challenge decision-making in simulated match situations. And it has not been easy.
As Lancaster explained, “When you are combining rugby with physical conditioning, you can really take the players to a place they find difficult to deal with.”
Now, this sport is one that embraces all shapes and sizes. Front-row forwards must take the strain of every scrum, so they need to possess fairly burly frames. This trend does not change at the top level, even if the fast-paced nature of modern day Test matches sets higher cardiovascular standards.
Of course, the sight of a prop or hooker trundling into open space still raises a smile. Old habits die hard.
While England’s props and hookers are far leaner specimens now than they may have been in years gone by, they have given us an array of priceless facial expressions – gurns, grimaces and grins – when the going has gotten tough.
At his best, Alex Corbisiero is one of the most dynamic, destructive loosehead props on the planet. As well as dismantling the Australia scrum, his contributions in the loose underpinned the British and Irish Lions' series victory in 2013.
You do not make an impact as a carrier without putting in the hard yards, and Corbisiero faces demonstrates his work ethic in this snap:
Unfortunately though, the wind must have changed. The Northampton Saint's expression was almost identical during a rest between shuttles:
Picture of perspiration
'Moose' is David Wilson's affectionate nickname within the England set-up. In terms of depicting immense effort, this photo is more of a Mona Lisa:
Breaking new ground
Wilson's fellow tighthead Kieran Brookes freely admitted that he had never known training as arduous as what England went through in Denver, despite a strategically streamlined hairstyle. His tweet confirmed as much:
Toughest 2 weeks of my life In Denver! Bodies in Tatters.. Looking forward to a chilled out week back in England! pic.twitter.com/yIi4Yckqsc— Kieran Brookes (@KBrookes3) July 25, 2015
Arms pumping, forehead furrowed
Hooker Tom Youngs brings mighty energy every time he pulls on an England shirt. That does not happen by accident:
During matches there is rarely a breakdown that does not feature Matt Mullan, who regularly impresses with his scores on fitness tests:
Luke Cowan-Dickie is another all-action performer. The young Exeter Chief has taken himself to the point of open-mouthed effort:
The context here is that Jamie George is chasing after his own grubber. The context does not really matter. We dare you not to grin. Even his squad mates are in stitches:
Mako Vunipola and Rob Webber lead the forwards off the line here...
...as Dan Cole keeps trucking in the sun:
Marler on a mission
Finally, here is Joe Marler making sure the backs get no air-time in this article:
We added that final photograph just so nobody accused the Harlequin of taking all the other ones...as this incriminating image might suggest:
All this hard work will be put into action when England face France in their opening QBE International next Saturday.