I’ve been a fan of rugby for a long time so when I was offered the chance to meet with Chris Robshaw, I leapt at the opportunity.
He is one of the most exceptional players in the UK and the sport at the moment. Until recently, Chris was England’s Captain and has lead our national rugby team in various big tournaments such as the Six Nations and the World Cup. He’s had the England summons once again for the Autumn Internationals in 2016 and no doubt 2017’s Six Nations.
I met him at a Maxi Muscle product launch at the Foundry Gym in Vauxhall. When I walked in, I instantly saw Chris – tanned, handsome and huge. I felt like a tiny, pale child when I stood next to him even though we’re both 30 years old! He welcomed me and we had a laugh during a mini workout before we sat down to chat.
So Chris, tell me about the position you play on the pitch?
Well, I’m a forward, and in that I am a flanker so I play around the side of the scrum. I’ve been playing flanker since I was a little kid. I’ve always been a part of the forwards – so one of the bigger guys on the pitch. The backs are normally the smaller guys, so a bit more skilful!
One of them being the scrum-half, right?
Yes, and that’s the beauty of the game. It really is a game for all shapes and sizes. You can have some second rows you are six foot ten plus and then you can potentially have a scrum-half who is five foot eight, or something like that and all different weights. Different speeds and different skills, and different levels. I love the game for that.
How did you get into rugby?
I was always really sporty as a kid, and rugby I was best suited to. I played from the age of 6 or 7 with my brothers in the garden, then playing a school and going from there really until I got a scholarship at Harlequins at the time. I got my contract with them and it’s gone from there! This year will be my 13th season with them…I think!
Then, the England call. How did that feel?
I was on tour with the Lions team at the time in and due to a few injuries I got the call that I was going to be starting for England. It was just incredible. It was incredible to stand there and sing the National Anthem for your country and to go out and play. It was an absolutely outstanding feeling. And then to eventually Captain them, and lead them out at Twickenham in particular, with the roar of the crowd, all the flame throwers, all the noise as the players come out to the pitch. As a kid, that is where I always wanted to be.
I saw you guys beat Scotland 20 – 0 once at Murrayfield. I was sat with a bunch of ex-Scottish internationals who simply said “good game”. Do you feel like that sportsmanship is unique to rugby?
I don’t want to get into many comparisons with other sports but I think the good thing about our game is that anyone can go and sit next to someone from the rival team, have a beer and a joke with them, you sing your native songs and afterwards you go your separate ways into the night! Probably into the same pub! But it is a great sport and to play in these big stadiums full of 80,000 passionate fans is incredible.
Would you say it’s an accepting sport?
Because I think it’s one of the sports where it has the highest number of gay players, it’s hugely accepting – to everyone. I think now there’s a big growth in women playing especially after the England women’s team World Cup win and with the male game, it just keeps growing and growing and it’s so open, it is so diverse. And I think it is a sport for everyone.
Are you aware you have a big gay following?
Ha! My partner Camilla told me, yeah!
And that was my next question: how does she feel about it?!
She enjoys it, yeah! She informs me on it!
The old stereotypical thought of a rugby player is a chubby man on the pitch! Would you, say over the last 10 years or so, that the players have evolved to become fitter?
Most definitely. As you say, fowards 10 years ago were a bit bigger and carrying way more weight, so to speak! But now I feel like they’ve leaned down a lot. I think backs have grown a lot as well, they’re not as small as they used to be. They’re mostly over 6ft tall and over 100kgs where predominately they’re a bit skinnier. The size and fitness levels increase every year.
What injuries have you suffered playing rugby?
I’ve had quite a few! I’ve broken my foot twice, I’ve broken my leg, I’ve done my knee ligaments, broke a bone in my hand, I’ve done my shoulder ligaments, a disk in my back, my nose a couple of times. I think that’s about it! Some sportsmen have superstitions for good luck or to avoid injuries!
Do you have anything you do before you play?
I have spaghetti Bolognese. Every Friday! That’s the only one!
Well, off the back of spag bol – nutrition! What’s your calorie intake like?
I aim to put away between 3000 and 3500 a day. Whether that’s a mixture of food or supplements depending on the type of day and depending if its carbohydrates or protein – which depends on how hard we’re going to train that day! Tuesday for example, is our ‘hard day’ so load up on more whey protein shakes and maybe a casein in the evening. Wednesday is our day off so probably won’t have as much, so it’s about getting that balance right.
Supplement-wise, what’s that plan like?
Yeah for our typical day I have about two protein shakes. As soon as we finish training, there’s a lot of whey protein waiting for us so we can replenish straight away. Like anyone who trains, we need to get the calories in our system straight away to rebuild our muscles. Then we’d probably eat an hour later. It’s the same after a game as well, its actually nicer – I sometimes stick a bit of ice cream in mine!
What type of supplement could you not live without?
The boys take the mick out of me because I went through a phase of just eating a lot of protein bars! I was eating a lot of the cookie dough Promax bars! I was just eating them like chocolate bars! I’ve restricted myself now, though.
If someone wanted the rugby body but not play the sport, what would your advice be?
I think if you were starting out the best advice would be make sure you go through movements with a trainer first, to avoid injury. The common misconception is that you must be in there for two hours a day. As an international and club player, we mostly spend about 30-45 mins on weights. You can get a good solid workout done in that time, then go out and enjoy your day or some other type of training.
So Monday, we do upper body workout. Tuesday would be our heavy leg workout day – so squats, deadlifts stuff like that. And Thursday is our explosive workout day, as we want to be powerful before a game as possible. So we’ll do things like box jumps, mixed in with a bit more upper body to keep that bulk as well. So for that type of body I’d say go for 3-to-4x 30-45 min sessions a week to help develop that shape.
What’s your favourite gym exercise?
The benchpress is my favourite. I’m not a huge fan of squats and deadlifts! They’re a lot harder!
I have to ask you about James Haskell and Owen Farrell and being “best friends”. Are you jealous??
Haha I’m not. Sadly. It’s very funny but I’m happy to leave them to their bromance!
Chris Robshaw was speaking following the launch of Maximuscle’s new raw ingredient powders, available now at www.maximuscle.com
This column was originally published in Gay Times magazine.