Secrets to keeping 37 hungry Lions fit to take on South Africa

8,000 eggs, 2,000 chicken fillets, tart cherries, Space Invaders, Love Island and fake moustaches! Secrets to keeping 37 hungry Lions fit to take on world champions South Africa

  • The Lions will travel with 25 tonnes of luggage this summer
  • Every detail has been mapped out including food and supplements
  • Bespoke training plans have been put together for each of the 37 players 
  • Full back Liam Williams will have his hands full as head of entertainment

Taking on the South Africans is a heavy operation. Wherever the Lions travel this summer they will take with them 25 tonnes of luggage, stocked with everything from altitude tablets to tackle bags to a Space Invaders arcade machine. Spare a thought for the couriers.

Every detail of the tour has been mapped out. Seats have already been designated on the bus and menus have been sent to hotels early, with instructions to stock up on 8,288 eggs (four per player, per day) and the odd springbok steak.

Preparations started long before the Lions arrived in Jersey this week. Bespoke training plans have been put together for each of the 37 players, as they get ready to take on the world champions. Sportsmail went behind the scenes to find out exactly what it takes.

Lions coach Warren Gatland needs his players in the best shape to take on South Africa


At last month’s admin day in London, each player had their blood tested. The aim of the tests was to determine iron levels, ahead of the high-altitude fixtures in Johannesburg. Those with lower iron levels will begin a course of supplementary iron tablets this week to prepare themselves for the low-oxygen conditions.

‘We identified 12 players with lower iron levels,’ said team nutritionist Jon Williams. ‘There’s less oxygen at altitude so you need more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to your body. If you’ve got low iron levels, then it’s harder for your body to produce red blood cells, so those 12 will have supplementary iron tablets.’


Altitude training chambers are off limits because of Covid regulations. Instead, the strength and conditioning team have introduced masks which limit the amount of oxygen players receive during fitness drills. Each player has his own initialled mask, which connect up to Everest summit generators worth £3,599 each.

Bespoke training plans have been put together for each of the 37 players this summer

‘Four mornings each week, we do Watt bike sessions wearing these simulated altitude masks,’ said head of strength and conditioning Bobby Stridgeon. 

‘It’s a six-second sprint with 24 seconds rest, six times; three sets with a two-minute break in between each set. Six seconds doesn’t sound like much, but for an anaerobic sport like rugby that’s how you get maximum power and force.’


Management were left sweating when the cryotherapy chamber for their Jersey base was stranded at sea due to the French fishing rows. Fortunately, it arrived in time for this week’s training camp. Players strip down to shorts, clogs and a mask, before stepping into the -90C conditions to speed up recovery.

‘The players use it twice a day,’ said Stridgeon. ‘So I was panicking when it was sat there 13 miles across the sea. It came from Toulouse Rugby Club so we had to rebrand it when it arrived!’

Chris Harris (right), Louis Rees-Zamit (left) and Zander Fagerson during a recovery session

The players can take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean for similar results. ’There’s a big pool in Jersey that fills up with sea water after the tide goes out,’ added Stridgeon.

‘You get hydrostatic pressure from the water. It acts as a bit of pump to get fresh blood to your heart. It gets the blood flowing without putting too much pressure on the joints. It’s good for the mind, too, going down the beach!’


Monday: leg day. Tuesday: upper body. Thursday: power. Commercial gyms are off limits in South Africa, so the team will use a makeshift marquee at their hotels, with dumbbells weighing up to 90kg each.

‘We’ll be keeping on top of our weights because we need to be big, strong and powerful for these Springboks,’ said Stridgeon. ‘We’ll be pushing strength and power the whole time: squats, step ups, Nordic hamstring curls, explosive sled pulls… all sorts.

‘We need to have a smile and a bit of banter to make it fun. Loud music, videos on the screens of other athletes doing their training; bobsled guys doing their deadlifts, or things like that. I don’t have a video of Andrew Sheridan squatting reps of 240kg back in the day, unfortunately!’


Players consume anything between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day. Head chef Andre Moore, who previously worked with Michel Roux Jnr, will travel with the squad to ensure that every nutritional demand is met. A specially designed app helps players understand their requirements before and after every session.

Breakfast is a rolling buffet from 8am, offering a few home comforts such as Scottish oats, Heinz baked beans and lava bread. ‘If you need to fuel up for an afternoon session then you need plenty of carbs,’ said Williams. ‘If you’re looking to repair and maintain muscle, you need protein.

‘The salad table always gets a real hammering as players have become more educated in eating. It’s not like a few years ago when you could put a spaghetti Bolognese in front of somebody and they’d be happy.’

Full back Liam Williams (above) will have his hands full as head of entertainment on tour


8,288 eggs (4 eggs per player, 37 players, 56 days)

2,368 chicken fillets

7,000 12oz fillet steaks

With local restaurants off limits, there will be one theme night per week, including Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Greek. There will even be a ‘Four Nations’ night, with lamb cawl, haggis, rarebit, beef hotpot and Guinness cheesecake.

‘In the past, we’ve done big Mexican nights where the waiting staff wear little moustaches and there’s a piñata filled with protein bars,’ said Williams. ‘We’ll have a grill night and ask the hotel chef to do his local take. They can bring in local meats like impala steaks and springbok steaks. Players will be keen to experience the local food.’

On game days, most players opt for a light meal before the match. Afterwards, there will be pizzas, chicken satay strips and fish goujons in the changing rooms. Later at the hotel there is a meal loaded with carbs and protein.

‘Some players prefer to load up on carbs the day before the match, then just top up on game-day so they don’t feel boated. Back at the hotel in the evening, steak baguettes and potato wedges are popular.’ 



7,200 protein drinks

4,900 protein bars

3,200 sachets of joint recharge (collagen, glucose, turmeric gel to reduce inflammation and aid soft tissue healing)

All in all, 13 pallets of supplements have been shipped out by the official suppliers, PAS Nutrition. Two to Jersey, one to Scotland, six to Johannesburg and four to Cape Town. The care packages contain everything from security-sealed protein drinks to fish oils to Night Time Recharge drinks. ‘The sleep formula is really popular on tour,’ said Williams.

‘It’s made up of amino acids, tryptophan and tart cherry, which contains melatonin. When you’re out of your environment in a hotel, that helps you get a really deep sleep if you take it 20 minutes before you go to bed. Two metric tonnes of products have been shipped out.’ 


Liam Williams put himself forward as head of entertainment and the full-back will have to get creative, because outdoor activities are limited.

The tech-savvy analysts have been tasked with finding international streams of Love Island, while a heavy haul of games machines have been shipped out.

The ITV2 dating show Love Island will be a popular programme for the players on tour

‘It’s no good if people turn up miserable so we’ve got a couple of Space Invaders machines, pool table, table tennis, poker table, scrabble, chess,’ said Stridgeon. ‘We’ve got an interactive dartboard. It weighs about 300kgs. It’s built into a fruit machine, tallies up your score and has cameras built into it.

‘We’ve got to work hard on entertainment. We’re not travelling from hotel to hotel all the time, so the boys will have more time off for a lie in and mental recovery.’

Stridgeon will also be compiling celebrity videos for his famous ‘Bobby Cup’ award. ‘If we win two games in a row, someone gets the Bobby Cup. It could be for anything; best player, unselfish act, whatever. We have celebrities announcing it: David Beckham, the cast of Gavin and Stacey, Dolph Lundgren, Prince Harry, Piers Morgan. It’s got to be a s**t trophy. It can’t be posh: a plastic cup will do!’

l Pro Athlete Supplementation (PAS) as Official Performance Nutrition Supplier of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa.

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