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How We're Preparing for the Autumn Internationals

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This week we've been up at St George's Park - the FA's national centre in Burton upon Trent - using the new facilities. The place is huge - some of the boys nearly got lost a couple of times going between the gym and the hotel - and the equipment is seriously impressive.

St George's is in the middle of the countryside, so there's not been a huge amount to do with our free time apart from the table tennis tournaments the guys have in the team room. Owen Farrell fancies himself as a bit of a pro. We've got a table at Saracens so he gets plenty of practice, but I get too frustrated when I play so I tend to leave the other boys to it.

This week has been a mixture of gym work and field work. We do strength and conditioning in the mornings, then get outside doing skills or set piece drills in the afternoon.

The England conditioning coaches work very closely with the fitness staff at Premiership Rugby clubs, so our gym programmes won't change a great deal when we meet up with England. The forwards and backs work out separately, but all of the guys at this level are strong. Dan Cole and Tom Youngs were benching 150kgs earlier this week which is a decent effort. Out of the backs, Manu Tuilagi is a strong guy - the Leicester boys tell us he's been lifting some serious weights since he was young.

It will be more of the same the week before each game, with a focus for us forwards on set pieces. We'll go through scrums and line-outs so that everyone is comfortable with the various calls. We'll also return to Pennyhill Park - the England team base in Surrey - where we'll spend the days before games.

I share with Phil Dowson who is generally a pretty good roommate. I don't struggle with sleeping the night before matches which probably comes down to experience. You need to be able to switch on and off, because if you're too focused for too long then you just blow yourself out.

The night before the match we have a shirt presentation and we each look at our individual roles. We'll eat together then the guys can either hang out in the team room or go back to their rooms. I'll generally mix with the boys and then head up and watch some DVDs. I'm catching up with the first season of Homeland at the moment, which is a good way to switch off and relax.

On the morning of the game we'll have breakfast together then a final team meeting, where we'll switch on again and start to get in the zone. It really hits you when we board the team bus and travel up to Twickenham.

I've not got any pre-match superstitions, but I have a routine in the changing room which I've been doing for a few years. I take two bananas from the food table, eat the first one and put the second on my clothes peg. Once we've finished the warm up we'll come back in and I'll eat half of the second banana and save the rest for half time. It started as a way of getting energy and potassium inside me but now it's part of the routine!

Then you walk out onto the pitch and get chills down the back of your neck. No matter how many times you play, the goose bumps stay with you! It's a special feeling and I'm really proud to get out there and represent England.

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