Q + A with England rugby player Justine Lucas

November 23 2018

Name: Justine Lucas

A little bit about you/bio:

Current Loughborough Lightning and England rugby player. I began playing rugby in 2010 at Loughborough University, before moving across to Lichfield RFC to play in the premiership. From there I was called up to get my first cap for England in 2013. I now have 33 caps for my country and have played in a world cup final.

How did you get started in your sport?

Back at Uni I was playing hockey and football, and one of my mates from football asked if I wanted to go along to a rugby taster session. I absolutely loved it, as I was a football goalkeeper, so I was able to use sim
What is your training like? Do you have a set goal per day or per week?
Training is pretty full on. We have around 3 weights sessions, a conditioning session, a speed session, a couple of skills sessions and 2 rugby sessions a week, as well as a game. We set ourselves rugby and S and C related goals which get reviewed every 3 months or so.

We record everything S and C wise and all our session plans are individually tailored to your specific target, so its good to know that you are working towards a bigger goal. I always like to make sure that I try and lift heavier weight each session, or beat a watt bike score. That way I know I am making the improvements that I need to, which will ultimately make me a better rugby player.

Can you give us an idea of what your diet is like?

I eat a lot! I am a prop, so I need to be heavy, but lean. I eat protein and carbs with pretty much every meal. I would say I eat everything within moderation. So I don’t have a set ‘cheat meal/day’, if I want a treat, I will have a treat, just in moderation. My willpower has become a lot stronger with age!

What does your daily meal plan typically look like?

90% of the time, my breakfast is 3 large scrambled eggs with some nice bread (toasted of course). I sometimes add some avocado or smoked salmon, and sometimes switch it up and make protein pancakes. After the gym I normally have a shake, then once I’m home I will have a proper meal.

I try and cook a good variety of meals so that I don’t get bored, but I tend to cook double, so I will have dinner, then make enough for lunch the next day. I like cooking from recipe books, so I prepare my meal plan for the week at the weekend and do the weekly shop on Sunday.

This week's meals have been: homemade lamb meatballs in a veg and tomato sauce, sausage and lentil casserole, fish pie and lamb steaks with jewelled rice. Generally, there is a lot of chicken and salmon in my diet as well.

Snacks include chicken, houmous, cereal, Nakd bars etc. Then I always end the evening with a cup of tea and a bowl of greek yoghurt with berries and some peanut butter and jam mixed in!

How do you stay healthy during your practice/training schedule?

I always make sure that I have food and snacks with me if I know I am going to be out of the
house for a long time. Some training days can be long, so I make time to go get a coffee with a mate and have some downtime to switch off from rugby and training.

I am lucky enough to not be working full time at the moment as well, so I do try and pop home if I have long enough, maybe have a nap, or do some chores and have a chill, before heading back for the evening rugby session.

What is your post-competition routine versus pre-competition?

I am not too superstitious about any pre-game rituals or anything. I generally only eat once before a game though, a brunch type meal, as I hate feeling full before the warm-up. I like to keep as calm as possible and have a laugh with my teammates rather than get too serious about anything. Although saying that, I always know what I have to do on the pitch, but I don’t over think it.

Postgame is always knackering, basically about getting a good feed and chilling, I'm normally too tired to do anything social these days, but a good meal, and maybe a nice cold beer or gin or something helps me switch off from it!

What does your recovery routine look like after a tough workout?

I always hit the protein shakes if I know I am not going to be eating a meal straight away. It’ll normally be the day after when I feel it the most, so I make sure that I get on the foam roller and do and prehab that may help.

What music do you train to?

I don’t actually train to music that much, as I find it a bit too much sometimes, and just like to keep pushing myself by using my thoughts, so its kind of just whatever is on in the gym. Generally, I like listening to drum and bass etc, something with a good beat!

What is your favourite gym exercise?

I like doing cleans, and really enjoy doing bench press at the moment as I am getting better at it!


What is your least favourite gym exercise?

Squats! My glutes are a bit rubbish, so I’m not very good at them and find them quite frustrating!

What is your favourite kit to train in/gym must have?

Always a vest! And if I’m lifting I will always have my lifters on!

Who was/is your mentor?

I have to say that Rocky Clark has been a massive inspiration to me over the last few years. I was lucky enough to play alongside her at club last year. I have definitely learnt a lot from her.

Who’s your biggest fan?

Probably my parents. They flew out to America to watch me get my first cap and have even flown halfway across the world to watch me play in New Zealand.

Who is your support network / how important are they in your performance?
My support network is definitely my teammates, whether that is from Lightning, England or from my previous clubs. Being teammates, they understand the pressures and what it's like, but can make me see sense if I’m being irrational! My real rocks over the past few years have been Rachel Malcolm, Mo Hunt, Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cokayne, Rocky Clark and Nolli Waterman.

What ambitions do you still have?

I would like to get to 50 caps and also go to the next world cup and hopefully win it!

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

I think playing in the 2017 WC final. Obviously, it would have been nice to come away with the win, but we played in a packed stadium, had millions watching on TV, my friends and family had all flown over to Ireland to watch. Going to the World Cup is the pinnacle of any sportsperson’s career, so to say I have played in a final is incredible.

What sets you apart from other athletes in your sport?

I always want to get better, fitter, faster, stronger etc. I would never say that I am the finished product, so I am always willing to push on and not just take what I have for granted.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

To be coachable. Listen to advice and build on it, don’t be that person that thinks they know it all, because you don’t. Especially not in a sport like Rugby.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to take up your sport?

It is honestly one of the most welcoming sports ever, and there is a position for everyone. Don’t hold back, and do everything with a smile on your face.

What’s next for you?

I am currently injured, so the next thing for me is to get back on the rugby pitch and hopefully put myself up for selection for the 2019 6 Nations.

Lightning Rugby play in top flight of women’s rugby in the Tyrrells Premier 15s. In the inaugural year, led by Rhys Edwards as head coach and England captain Sarah Hunter as assistant, Loughborough finished fifth, just missing out on the play-off places. So far in the 2018/19 season, Lightning are the only team to remain unbeaten and sit top of the table.

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