Ed Slater weighs in on salary cuts, isolation and aims for Gloucester

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Ed Slater very nearly never played rugby, but following years of success at Leicester and Gloucester he has found that there is more to rugby than just winning. Chatting to Robert Rees he looked at the salary cuts and what they mean for the sport, how he passes his isolation time and his aims in Cherry and White.

Ed is currently isolating at home with his wife and three children, but has found it upon himself to keep active, physically and mentally, to ensure boredom and fatigue doesn’t set in.

“We’ve got a routine and structure to my week so its familiar to me, because that’s been the biggest thing I’ve had to adapt to, not having a working day. It’s the small things, like I’ve got two hours in the morning where I can go off and do my bits and pieces fitness wise and then another few hours in the afternoon where I just potter around the house doing DIY, cooking meals or maybe another fitness session. Just having that keeps both our sanity.

Ed Slater keeping fit and having quality time with the family

“Inbetween that, it’s being there for the kids as they’re still young [five (nearly six), four and two], so, they just want to play, mess around and be in the garden and we’re putting our energy into them whilst we’ve got them around because it’s a rare opportunity to have this much time together. That’s been my focus, keeping fit and having quality time with the family.

“The eldest is year one at school, so whilst she’s not there we have to do some pieces of work with her, but we’re pretty loose with the structure, we don’t want to be on her case. As and when she wants to, which she likes to read and write. Her sister, who’s only 14 months younger, wants to follow suit and then the two-year-old boy just throws things across the room. He’s a Tasmanian devil.”

Kingsholm Stadium
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 04: A general view of the Kingsholm Stadium prior to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Newcastle Falcons at Kingsholm Stadium on May 04, 2019 in Gloucester, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Despite the added downtime Ed hasn’t started creating new hobbies quite yet. “I’m not the most exciting person with hobbies because of the three kids, I don’t get to spend a lot of time on other things. You spend it on them, making sure the home is up and running and then work,” he explained.

“I’ve put them on the back burner for a few years now and don’t expect I’ll be able to pick those up until the kids are older, but I think for me it’s being helpful to my wife.”

Training from home will bring its obvious disadvantages. Smaller spaces to train within, no teammates to push you and lack of equipment. However, the lads as Gloucester have been well prepared by head of performance, Dan Tobin.

Ed continued, “We’re lucky. I can’t speak highly enough of Dan. He’s been brilliant for me since I came to Gloucester and I don’t think you’ll find anyone who says anything other than he’s brilliant at his job.

“He put out a lot of stuff in the earlier days of all of this, so we can follow the adaptations and watch our progress, a few of us had an opportunity to get some kit from the gym at Gloucester as well.

Adjusting to training with teammates banter a challenge

“I’ve got a few dumbbells, a rowing machine, a bike, a bench and I know a few other boys have got bits and pieces.”

“You’ve got to be careful with the furlough situation as well it’s difficult. You can’t really be talking and doing much work, so he was smart in getting all sorts of programmes out, for however long this goes on for we’ve got things to keep us busy.

“Just the interactions between the lads, talking about what they’ve been up to, times they’ve been doing, what they’re lifting as mates to get everyone involved.” Ed explained that being away from your fellow players poses a serious challenge to those intrinsically used to dealing with 40+ members of staff every day of the week. The banter may not be in person, but the players are remaining in touch.

“It’s really important [to stay in touch via social media] and we’ve seen as times gone on, more of that. We had that week off after the Wasps game and never came back in. People probably took that time to enjoy that rest for the first week or two and then you realize that the lads aren’t used to not being around each other and talking about training or rugby and doing bits together.

“Over the last ten days that chat has ramped up between the boys and it shows the tightness in the group when you start to interact more and more as the days go by.

“You don’t normally see it as you take it for granted that you’re turning up to train and you want your own space and you get that, you go hang on, I’m used to work with X, Y and Z and haven’t heard off them, are they alright, I want to check in on them. Have they got everything they need and you see more of that come out as time goes on.”

Isolation, Nutrition, and 25% salary cuts

A key part of isolation for players is nutrition. When you’re 6-feet-6 and 19 stone you eat a lot of calories in a day, but Ed has his deliveries sorted courtesy of a local business.

“Luckily we have Will Carvalho, who’s been at Gloucester for around five years. Everything he brings into Hartpury to cook with is fresh stuff from local butchers, grocers etc. We’ve got a company called Ben Creese Butchers, they send out a list they’re doing meat and veg wise and you just ring them up and order what you want and they deliver that within a day or two. I’ve got them bringing over all my meat, fruit, salad box, veg box. That all gets delivered to our door.

“We’re lucky to have that link local to us.”

The pay cuts to staff have dominated news in recent weeks, with many rugby entities accepting slashes to their income in order to help save their club or union. Gloucester were one of those clubs, but Ed believes it’s for the good of the game as well as the club.

“There’s been a big focus on the pay cuts. That’s fine, people will want a view on that, but the reality is the game of rugby is very unstable financially. You didn’t have to dig too deep to understand why. I think it’s a good thing for the game that we’ve had to take the pay cuts. People don’t want to lose money, but I think there’s a much bigger picture in play and if it benefits the club and game when we come back in then that’s the priority.

“I’ve got to praise the club in the communication they’ve had with the players because I’m not 100% sure it’s the same across the clubs. Gloucester were open with us as to why, the reasons, how the finances work. It was pretty clear to us why it had to happen. It would have been difficult to take if it was just that’s the way it is and deal with it, but they were clear and told us all before it happened and explained the situation and where the club was financially.

“I think that communication prevents any frustration or tension that can build up over a sensitive subject. We’ve got a very grounded group who understand it’s not just about the players, there are staff earning far less than us that are having to take the hit. That shows you the number of people at the club who are working hard.

“There’s a much bigger picture to this and there are a lot of people less fortunate than us that are battling away. If it helps keep the staff, away from the playing group, then I’m all for it.”

Ed Slater
Gloucester supporters show a sign to Saracens after their alleged wage cap infringement during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Saracens at Kingsholm on November 09, 2019 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

With a season return date still in the air Ed does firmly believe that looking forward is key, rather than looking back.

“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. If that’s a change up on how the season finishes then we’ve got to look at all the options. I understand it’s going to be a completely different scenario to what we’ve been used to so we’ve got to keep our minds open to how we could finish the season, if we can finish it. Then we’ve got to look at how we start a new season, if we have to go straight into that.

“As long as players have been looking after themselves, which is their responsibility to do, it doesn’t take a long time to get match ready. Ideally you have two or three months of pre-season, but I think if it came to three or four weeks then you could do the work in that time to get into a match. At that time a lot of guys will be desperate to get back into match action.

“We’re just going to have to think outside the box and be able to swim along with it.”
There has been a shout that the season could end behind closed doors and the Gloucester lock doesn’t mind if that occurs either.

“It’s probably well above my head, but if that’s how we can finish the season and we can get TV cameras there and the games can be shown, because that’s one thing, it’s highlighted how much sport people watch and how much they miss it. I’m sure people who love the game would love to see rugby on the TV, even if they can’t go to the game. Our job is to play so we’ll get ourselves back on the field if the clubs can push on.”

The season may not be able to get put right following a below expectations season at Kingsholm, but learning from mistakes is the key message that the players are taking onboard.

“We’ve got to approach it differently. Rather than looking at it as not being able to rectify things, I think it’s a chance to look at what didn’t work for us, what can we do better? There’s no hiding the fact that we weren’t good enough this season. There was a lot of expectation of us to do better than we did up until the season came to a halt so we’re not going to be able to change that, but we can break games down and see where we underperformed and try and change that as a playing and coaching team.

“That way, going in to a new season or wherever we restart we’re fully aware of where we weren’t good enough. There’s not a lot we can do about it, but we’ve got to accept we didn’t meet expectations of the supporters and the club after the season before. That’s the most disappointing thing, but as a player I want to know how I can move forward and do differently to push us up the table.”

Johan Ackermann style

“He is calm, he doesn’t let a lot phase him. He’s not a man who’ll throw things around the changing room or get in your face. That’s not his style. He’s a measured guy, he doesn’t think people respond to that.”

Ed Slater
WORCESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 28: Johan Ackermann, the Gloucester head coach looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Worcester Warriors and Gloucester Rugby at Sixways Stadium on April 28, 2019 in Worcester, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ed Slater: Career highlight

“I think winning the title at Leicester was a career highlight. We’d had two finals prior to that and lost them both to Saracens and Harlequins. I was just desperate to win a title and looking back at how difficult it is to get to a final we kind of took it for granted that we’d reached three in a row. To win that third one was a relief as well as satisfaction.

“I used to be derogatory towards my England Saxons cap against the Crusaders, but making that New Zealand tour now I look back was a special moment for me and I’ll always be eternally disappointed not to get a full cap. But, to captain an England XV, which had the likes of Anthony Watson in it. Brad Barrett was playing, James Haskell, Danny Cipriani. That was a good side and to captain those guys was an achievement, although at the time I didn’t look at it in that light. I can look back and enjoy that moment now. I’m lucky to have been able to do it.”

Despite achieving a lot since his transition into rugby, Slater is still aiming big and hopes that a talented Gloucester squad can achieve just that. “You have to respect that Saracens and Exeter have led the way for so long. They’ve got quality players and are very well-coached. They’ve been out on their own for a while now so to have one of your biggest competitors in that position going into the Championship then it leaves space for other teams to come up and you’re seeing that with the likes of Bristol.

“It does open up opportunities for other teams and if you’re in one of those teams you’d look at this as a chance to win it. There’s a fight for who can take advantage of that and there’s a chunk of clubs in the middle of the table that are very close to each other and it’s very small margins.”

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