No matter what level you play rugby at, as the the start of a new season is usually a mix of excitement and dread – excitement for getting back on the field with your teammates, dread at the slog of weekly training in between! But whether you’re a training machine or you have a more 1970s view of match prep, one thing that’s guaranteed to get you right up for those chilly weekday evenings – some lovely new stash.
To give us that new season/new stash motivation bump, the good people at Canterbury, New Balance and Stance sent us a complete, head-to-toe set-up designed to keep us training hard and feeling good no matter the environment or the weather. We’ve spent a few weeks running it all through its paces, and this is what we learned…
We’ll start off with what’s most familiar to us, and that’s the various Canterbury training t-shirts that we’ve been sent – a mixture of Ospreys-branded ‘Drill’ tees, and the non-team-specific Superlight tees.
There’s a difference in both price and construction to this pair, but we’re really impressed at the functionality and smart design that makes both options well suited to different jobs.
The Superlight tee is what you want to be wearing when you’re getting your sweat on doing cardio – whether that’s doing conditioning drills, going for a run, or pounding a wattbike until you think you’re going to melt.
The Superlight tee is made of Canterbury’s ‘Adaptive’ version of its Vapodri material – it’s different to the standard Vapodri gear that we looked at a few years ago in Rucked & Rated. It’s thinner – at least 50% thinner to our touch, and ridiculously lightweight, but still does a great job of wicking moisture and regulating your temperature.
In practice, we there’s a noticeable difference one you really start to get the heart rate up – especially if you’re in a hotbox of a gym or outside in warm weather. It keeps you cooler, feels less restrictive and generally gets out of the way.
As great as the Adaptive fabric is, however – it’s worth noting that areas that are going to experience a lot of friction – the sleeves and ribs of the shirt – are still made of the regular, thicker Vapodri material. Our guess is this is because the Adaptive fabric isn’t the most hard-wearing material – understandable given its purpose, but worth noting.
If you do need something a little more hard-wearing, however, don’t fret – the Drill t-shirt has you covered. These examples look stunning in the same graphic used on the 2018/19 Ospreys home and away shirts, but they’re also cleverly thought out to deal with more rigorous training treatment.
So we have the ultra-thin Adaptive fabric here, but only on the the front of the shirt where you’re going to get really sweaty. the sleeves and back of the jersey are all made of the thicker ventilated Vapodri material, while the underarms and side panels are made of stretch fabric to improve your ease of movement. You also get the same crew-style collar as the 2018/19 on-field shirts.
This shirt is designed for the weight room and the training pitch – it might not keep you quite as cool as the Superlight tee, but it more than makes up for it in the ruggedness of its build. It also has smart little design features such as an elongated rear segment, which means you won’t show off too much when you’re bending over to pick up a ball or rack some weights!
We’ve had a pretty amazing summer, weather wise, here in the UK, and as a result it’s easy to forget that it won’t always be warm and dry when you’re hitting tacklebags on a Wednesday evening! Before long, you’ll need to protect yourself from the elements, and thankfully Canterbury has us sorted in that department too.
The Ospreys Vaposhield hoodie has probably been the most impressive bit of kit we’ve tested here – it’s just so damn useful. It’s lightweight enough to wear while exercising without getting too hot, but solid enough that you won’t worry about someone grabbing and ripping it. The hood design is also very smart – it’s a three-piece construction that has a peak and a neck/lower face protecting segment to shield you from the elements while not compromising visibility.
The real kicker is the material it’s made of. Vaposhield is Canterbury’s water-resistant fabric – you may remember it from the 2017 Lions jersey – and we’re hugely impressed at how it performs on this hoodie. From light showers to absolutely torrential downpours, the water doesn’t penetrate at all, and all from a fabric that feels like cotton and doesn’t have that horrible ‘wrapped in clingfilm’ non-breathability that waterproof clothing can sometimes have.
When things get a bit chilly, however, we’ll be reaching for the Thermoreg 3/4 zip jumper – this ridiculously light-weight top is great if you’re standing around in the cold waiting for the rest of the team to turn up, but it’s remarkably breathable once the action starts, too.
It’s also the perfect bit of attire if you’re in more of a spectating frame of mind – it’ll keep you warm on the terraces without making you feel claustrophobic. Definitely not what you’d want to be wearing in the rain, though – those ventilation pores work both ways!
When it comes to boots, we’ll be the first to admit that we’re no experts – after all, the name’s Rugby Shirt Watch! – but if someone sends us some rugby gear to test, then dammit we’re going to test it. And in the case of these New Balance Furon 3.0 Pro boots, we’re really glad we did.
Many of us in the rugby world are a bit set in our ways in terms of boots – especially if we were born at some time before 1990 – but if you’ve been telling yourself that the same old pair of boots that are older than your colts team fly-half are all you need to play your best… it’s time to meet 2018.
Slipping on the Furons is genuinely like putting on a pair of your favourite slippers. Everything about the fit, the support, the flexibility and general comfort is absolutely uncanny – and they’re so light you’ll instantly forget you’re wearing them. And with an elasticated collar for better ankle support and sprinter-inspired stud layout, you’ll at least tell yourself it makes you faster – regardless of evidence to the contrary.
Okay, so if you’re of an old-school bent you may not be comfortable wearing boots in a ‘look at me’ neon yellow – though they do come in black! – and we wonder how much punishment that super comfortable and responsive TPU/polyester mesh upper could take compared to traditional leather boots. But if you want a boot that will get you performing at your best while making you stand out from the crowd, New Balance has you covered.
The most pleasant surprise in our training package was the one thing that, to be honest, we weren’t exactly excited about. After all, can we really get het up about socks? Well, maybe you should try a pair of Stance socks before you answer that question…
Stance might well be a new name to you, but they’re a big noise in the US, where they’ve scored contracts with the NBA and MLB to provide on-field/court socks to some of the world’s best athletes. They’re now expanding into Europe, and have just signed up England star Billy Vunipola as an ambassador – so rugby is clearly on their agenda.
We know what you’re thinking – ‘£14 for a pair of socks? Really?!’ Well yes, they’re certainly not cheap… but if you think that these Distances Crew socks are just overpriced versions of the five for a fiver tube socks you get from Sports Direct… well… think again.
Stance socks are designed to make sure you never get sore feet again – and if you do, it won’t be because your socks have let you down. There’s cushioning where you need it on the heel and foot pad, no seams and extra padding around the toes to protect the most fragile bit of your foor, and arch support to work in conjunction with your boots or trainers to keep you working for longer.
Quite honestly, these are the most comfortable and supportive pair of socks we’ve ever worn. Don’t worry about training – we wish we had a pair for every day of the week!
If ‘look good, feel good’ didn’t have an element of truth about it, every sports team on the planet would be running around in plain black or white kits with short back and sides haircuts.
The truth is that whether you’re playing sport every week, or just want to spur yourself into being a bit more active, kitting yourself out with some new gear won’t just help you when you’re working – it’ll inspire you to get out and do it in the first place.
The gear we’ve tested today from Canterbury, New Balance and Stance works superbly in practice, but it all looks absolutely awesome, too. If you’re looking to inject some excitement into your training routine for the new season, a fresh look might be just what you need.
For more information about Canterbury’s 2018 training gear, visit Canterbury.com, to find out more about New Balance shoes and boots, head to NewBalance.co.uk, and to learn about Stance, check out Stance.eu.com.