Champions England turn to MMA in search for Six Nations edge

Defence coach Paul Gustard believes octagon skills could transfer to pitch

Conor McGregor works out with his coach John Kavanagh ahead of UFC 202 in Las Vegas last year. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Joe Schmidt might be tempted to give Irish UFC star Conor McGregor a call in the build-up to the Six Nations after reigning Grand Slam champions England revealed that mixed martial arts is now part of their approach to sharpening their skill set.

England defence coach Paul Gustard has been practising with an MMA expert based near England's Surrey training camp and believes some of the skills he has learned in the octagon will assist Eddie Jones's men throughout the Six Nations.

“It’s about improving certain aspects around the contact area, around the maul and about getting back to your feet post-tackle,” Gustard said.

“It’s those sorts of skills that are innate in wrestling or a one-on-one combat sport and there are lots of things we can take from it.


“You always have to put it into the context of rugby, but it’s helpful to see how their bodies move and how they manipulate parts of the body to get out of contact.

“You see some things that you know won’t transfer and there are some that make you think how can we develop that, how can we explore that?

“It’s not just the tackle but also the system. Trying drills and trying games that I think might work and might illicit a certain response from the players or get a certain outcome.”