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How virtual team-building worked for England Rugby during the pandemic

Adapting to the virtual world 

Staying fit is one thing, but for Abbie Ward, a lock with England and the Bristol Bears, she had to get fit. “Rehab is difficult enough when you have physios around,” says Abbie, who was suffering from a pelvis/hip injury, “But when you’re taken away from that and you have to do it on your own it becomes a lot more difficult.

“I was very lucky in that my husband soon became my training partner, my physio and my rehab partner.”

Regular Zoom appointments with her team physio would see Abbie’s husband Dave – also a rugby coach – get hands-on with his wife’s rehab. “Our house is much like everyone else’s, we don’t have a physio bed, we don’t have access to lots of tools and stuff,” explains Abbie. “It was kitchen table, baby oil, and a physio on the laptop saying, ‘move her foot like this, move her ankle like this, bend the knee in this way’.

“I’d also be hopping in my kitchen to a camera so the physios could try to pick up any imbalances.”

Learning lessons for the future

So successful was virtual physio, a prime example of adapting to the scenario, Abbie believes it will continue. “I think we can carry on implementing it,” she says. “It cuts down on travel times, you can fit more appointments in, I think it’s made things more efficient.

“We always talk about finding a way on the rugby pitch,” says Abbie. “We ask ‘what is the solution?’, ‘how are we going to get around a certain obstacle or situation?’, and we absolutely took that thinking from our life in rugby to life in isolation.

“We’ve learnt a lot, we’ve adapted and we can try to apply that to everything moving forward. In the end look at the characters [of the team] and it isn’t so surprising.”

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