Out of the frying pan and into the scrum
Olympic body challenge: Working out is a team effort as Matthew Jenkin takes on the Kings Cross Steelers
Shoving my face between another man’s buttocks isn’t usually part of my workout regime, but in rugby, happily, it’s a requirement.
As a weedy, asthmatic teenager, my school-day experiences of playing the sport were less titillating and mostly involved shivering in the drizzle, dragged face first through the mud or being crushed beneath a heap of burly adolescents with below par personal hygiene habits.
I soon learnt not to catch the ball or, if unlucky enough to have it land in my arms, to swiftly throw it in any direction, so long as it was far away from me.
It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I agreed to revisit the game which I had, for years, accidentally-on-purpose forgotten my kit for almost every gym lesson.
However, London’s Kings Cross Steelers promised to be gentle with me and assured me, one scrum and I’ll be hooked.
Besides, I figured the camaraderie of a team sport would be a great motivator and inject some extra fun into my three-month challenge to look and feel like an Olympian before the London 2012 games, with the help of the UK and Europe’s number one nutrition brand, Maximuscle.
After a quick warm-up game at the Steelers’ training ground in West Ham, east London, the confusion must have been written all over my face as I was swiftly siphoned off from the main group to join the newbies and, in my case, the athletically challenged.
Frankly, I wasn’t jealous, watching in terrified awe as a tall tattooed juggernaut sent the opposition team flying like pins at a bowling alley. No, I was happy learning the ropes away from the bone-crunching, bum-bruising action on the main pitch.
Nevertheless, my first lesson was slightly more than I had bargained for – practicing what is called in Rugby Union, a ruck.
A ruck is when a player, or players, from each side make contact with each other over the ball, which is on the ground.
The aim of the ruck is for the players in each team to move their opponents out of the area, and to maneuver the ball toward their respective sides of the ruck so that play can go on from that point.
This is achieved by ‘rucking’ the ball to move it from under the bodies of players on the ground.
In other words, a group of men charge at each other, cuddle, fall on the floor and fight over the oval-shaped ball like an elaborately choreographed Easter egg hunt.
Matthew becomes a Kings Cross Steeler.
Despite feeling like the runt of the group Steelers coach PJ Hopper was full of encouragement and told me he saw potential.
While I’m not so sure, the supportive and family atmosphere at the club made me want to come back another time and it’s easy to see why PJ has been coming for 12 years now.
‘It’s been such a big part of my life for over a decade,’ he told me over a pint of beer in the bar afterwards. ‘The thought of not being here scares me. It’s like an extended family for me.’
He added: ‘I like the fact that anybody can play rugby.
‘No matter what your body shape, there’s a job for you on the rugby field.
‘I also love the fact it’s a really respectful sport. When I first joined the club, every so often you would hear homophobic stuff, but that was 12 years ago. Now, it’s rare.
‘You’ve got to be able to go knock the shit out of each other on the pitch then have a beer with each other in the bar afterwards.’
The Steelers are playing in the Bingham Cup – gay rugby's world cup – in Manchester, north west England this June and the club’s chair Tim Sullivan, will be proudly carrying the iconic Olympic torch through the streets of the UK capital this year.
Although nominally a gay team, the King's Cross Steelers welcome all men who are committed to playing rugby, whatever their sexual orientation and level of experience.
With Maximuscle powering the Welsh rugby team, as well as myself, with its range of protein shakes and fitness supplements, I am in good company and in a few weeks time I too could be out on that pitch putting the fear of god into the opposition as well.
Maximuscle lean definition supplements.
Along with a healthy diet plan recommended by Maximuscle nutritionist Gareth Nicholas, I have been working out three or four times a week, including taking the Maximuscle Promax Diet shake and Thermobol and CLA-1000 supplements.
Follow my Olympic body challenge progress on Twitter @matthewjenkin.