Riot squad unable to shield England

Stuart Lancaster (Gallo)
Stuart Lancaster (Gallo)

London - England rugby players spent a day training with riot police in a bid to improve communications skills before their failed Rugby World Cup campaign.

The stars donned protective clothing and carried shields as they came under 'attack' from mock rioters hurling wooden bricks in the simulated urban flare-up, the Press Association reported Sunday.

Unfortunately the day at the Metropolitan Police's training centre in July could not stop them becoming the first World Cup hosts to exit the tournament before the knockout stages.

Some players developed blisters as a result of wearing brand new military boots and the exercise was so intense that squad training the following day was delayed.

England's Rugby Football Union had tried to keep details of the police day under wraps. But a spokesperson for the national governing body said: "The exercise was valuable in getting the players to organise and communicate under pressure and they worked well together in testing and unfamiliar circumstances.

A statement released by the Metropolitan Police, the force which serves London, confirmed the anti-riot training.

"In July the England team took part in a day's level-two public-order training at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) specialist training centre in Gravesend," the statement read.

"Police officers from across the UK take part in similar training. The training, which tests teamwork and resilience, included an exercise where, dressed in full protective equipment, a street disorder situation was played out."

England thrashed minnows Uruguay 60-3 in Manchester on Saturday in their final Pool A match. But they had already crashed out of the tournament following defeats at their Twickenham 'fortress' by Wales (28-25) and Australia (33-13).

Confirmation of the riot training came a day after it emerged that England backroom staff - but not coach Stuart Lancaster or his assistants - had taken part in an exercise that involved leading horses round a field.

The Daily Mail said the plan, devised by England's head of athletic performance Matt Parker - who in a previous role as head of "marginal gains" at British Cycling was involved with several Olympic champions - had led to "grumbles of derision" from the staff.

According to the newspaper each staff member was filmed leading a horse through routines so it could be analysed.

The staff had to even get their horses over a water jump and each task was filmed and assessed on how well they "dominated their interactions with the horses and gained their trust."

The group were then rewarded with a champagne dinner.

Given the flak England have faced since bowing out of the World Cup, the riot training may yet come in useful.

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