With the weather taking a decidedly un-summery turn, and the nights drawing in, the reality that mid-training is soon to become an unpalatable slog in the cold and rain becomes increasingly hard to avoid.
But just because the weather’s dreadful doesn’t mean that you have to take that laying down. Those flimsy shorts you’ve been wearing on to since 1999 and that ancient jersey from the colts team you played for when you were 17 might do the job in preseason, but let’s be honest, you can do better.
And if you want to upgrade your training look without breaking the bank, well, that’s where Canterbury’s Essentials range comes in – offering a selection of good quality and unfussy rugby gear that will greatly improve your Wednesday nights under the lights.
Canterbury sent us a full training ensemble to get a sense of what the Essentials range offers, including shorts, a jersey, baselayer and some of the new Phoenix boots, and so we strapped it all on and headed out.
Starting out with the top half, we first try out the VapoDri Challenge jersey (£30), and slipping it on it’s immediately familiar. Anyone who owned one of Canterbury’s 2015-era jerseys will remember the sculpted open-necked fit of the 360-degree Loop neckline will be at home here, and it’s a template that was popular at the highest level for a reason – it’s comfortable, well-fitting and feels really rugged.
The Vapodri material is thick enough that you won’t find yourself shivering while you’re standing around waiting for the coach to turn up, but lightweight enough that it doesn’t feel heavy when wet, and dries quickly.
Next up are the Professional shorts (£19), which are a very different proposition to the flexible and lightweight jersey. These things are rugged in the extreme, with hard-wearing stiff fabric and minimal give when you’re running or moving.
Of course, this isn’t a bad thing – some of us will prefer something that’s a little more thick and reassuringly tough to grab onto at the set-piece or in the lineout – and having pockets to shove your hands in on cold winter nights is a bloody godsend.
Next, we moved on to what for us, at least, was the toughest sell – the base layer. Canterbury supplied us a long-sleeved Thermoreg top (£39) and matching leggings (£39), and from the outset we were suspicious. While they’ve become increasingly common on the rugby field in recent years, if you’re a bit old-school like us, the notion of wearing skin-tight lycra just seems a bit… no.
And it must be said, that if you’re someone who doesn’t find themselves blessed with the body of a Greek god, wearing the base layer on its own will probably cause you to confront some pretty bleak realities about your body image, but really, that’s not the point.
If you wear a base layer on its own, you’re probably a psychopath – the clue is in the name, and no matter how many beers have rounded your belly over the years, a pair of shorts and a shirt over the top nobody will notice and trust us, the benefits are real.
We’ve been hugely impressed with Canterbury’s ThermoReg technology in the past, and the base layer version might be the absolute pinnacle of it – quite how a tiny layer of skin-tight fabric can make you SO COSY we can’t say, but honestly, we can’t imagine ever going to a November training session without them.
Again, however, we must reiterate – do NOT wear these garments on their own unless you want to look like you’re in some horrifying expressive dance troupe.
Finally, we turn our attention to the boots. The Phoenix Raze (£55) sits in the middle of Canterbury’s recently overhauled boot range, and compared to say, the New Balance Furons we reviewed last year, there’s definitely a sense that these are not £100-plus boots, but in many ways that’s actually a good thing.
The Furons had a bit of a ‘slipper’ vibe, and comfy as they undoubtedly were, they didn’t exactly feel like they’d last a long under match conditions. And that’s where these Raze boots have an edge – they feel properly designed for the rigours of a rugby field.
The fit is snug and comfortable, even with wider feet, and thanks to the reassuring polyurethane upper, you won’t have to worry too much if you get your toes stepped on at the breakdown.
The eight removable 13mm metal studs are equally reassuring, offering you good grip and security on softer ground, while not compromising your mobility.
The Essentials range is designed to be the affordable entry point to Canterbury’s team and training wear, and while this might not be quite as impressive as some of the high-end stuff we’ve looked at in the past, it’s important to remember what these are designed to do.
The clue is in the name with this range – these are the basic, everyday essentials that will help you in your rugby journey, and are excellent quality to boot. They might not be the flashiest things around, but most of us aren’t the flashiest players, and the Essentials gear and the Phoenix Raze boots won’t let you down.
Check out all the new Canterbury Essentials range and Phoenix Raze boots at Canterbury.com