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What Do Rugby Players Eat At The Rugby World Cup?

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What will the player’s be eating at the Rugby World Cup?

By Richard Chessor - Elite Performance Nutritionist (Read More About Richard Here)

"The Rugby World Cup is nearing its completion but for the remaining players, there is still a lot of food left to eat! Here is a brief rundown of how and what the players will likely to be eating at the tournament.

Training schedule

The team’s meal schedule will be determined by their training schedule, which in turn will be largely dictated by turnaround time between games and player availability. Some nations were required to play 2 games within 5 days during the pool stages and in this situation a large number of the squad will be following recovery protocols instead of traditional training.
However, if the head coach has a full week between games and a full squad to train they will likely include the following sessions:

• 1 Recovery day (usually the day after the game) and 1 rest day (usually mid-week)
• 3 Team sessions (1-2h sessions covering all aspects of play)
• 1-2 Unit sessions (20-45min sessions where the backs will train together and forwards will train together)
• 1 Captain’s Run (a light session at the match stadium the day before the game)
• 1-2 Strength sessions in the gym

Hotel catering

All teams are accommodated in hotels that are close to the match stadiums and training venues. Meals will be taken in a private dining area within the hotel and the menus are usually generated in cooperation between the hotel’s chef and the team’s nutritionist. Some teams travel with their own head chef to allow greater control over their catering regardless of where they eat. Typically, a team will eat breakfast, lunch, evening meal and a pre-bed snack at the hotel but additional meals or snacks will be added depending on the training schedule. The majority of team catering is self-service buffet so the player’s are responsible for what and how much they choose to eat. Breakfast will likely be similar to a standard hotel breakfast with a mixture of hot and cold options. Primary carbohydrate sources will be cereals, fruits and breads and primary protein sources will be eggs, cold meat and dairy products. Most players will likely stick to the same 2-3 choices at breakfast so the menu won’t differ much day-to-day. Lunch will usually be served after morning training and consist of a range of cold dishes and 3-6 hot dishes. Common lunch options such as soups, salads and make-your-own sandwich options are likely to be available but most teams will also have 1-3 main hot protein dishes (e.g. grilled chicken, beef Bolognese, fishcakes etc.) and 1-2 supporting carbohydrate dishes (e.g. rice, pasta, potatoes, noodles etc.).

If the team is training in the afternoon they will likely schedule a snack or mini-meal in the late afternoon to support recovery. This could be as simple as soup and sandwiches or consist of 1-2 hot dishes such as chicken fajitas or filled baked potatoes. Evening meal is not dissimilar to lunch but perhaps with a greater availability of protein dominant dishes compared to carbohydrate dishes.

Often, red meat and oily fish dishes will be served more frequently in the evening due to the greater digestion time available until the next training session. Occasionally, the evening meal will be a themed meal and follow the cuisine of a particular nation or region. This type of meal can be provide a useful opportunity to break up the monotony of team catering, expose players to new dishes in a controlled environment and create a ‘feel-good’ factor in the squad. The main course items at lunch and evening meal will rotate each day and the nutrition and catering team have the option to manipulate these options to better meet the needs of the team. For example, if the team requires a higher carbohydrate intake then more dishes with a higher carbohydrate content can be made available such as adding a dessert option or integrating the protein components into a primarily carbohydrate dish (e.g. lasagne or sandwiches).

The final eating opportunity of the day will be the pre-bed snack. Typically a cold snack served between 2100-2230, the players would help themselves to a selection of cereals, breads, dairy products and fruit. With the tournament being in England, a Western style of catering will be prevalent but each team will have their own catering idiosyncrasies and dishes that they want prepared in a particular way. For example, Scotland have specific porridge oats and a recipe for chef to follow whereas Japan have a particular style and method for cooking rice.

One to two meals per week will be eaten out with the hotel and the team may eat out as one large group or go out in smaller groups. The players will choose to eat at local restaurants and have greater freedom to choose dishes to their taste instead of being restricted to the team catering offerings. Alongside the themed meals, these meals out provide another opportunity to create variety in the players diet whilst in a relaxed atmosphere


Match-day catering usually follows a familiar pattern. Most teams will have the same breakfast and pre-match meal offerings available every match-day as part of a tried and tested strategy that the players are comfortable with. If kick-off is 3pm or earlier then the team will likely have breakfast and a pre-match meal but for kick-off’s after 3pm an extra lunch meal will be added. Dishes that are commonplace at pre-match meal are soup, grilled chicken, white fish, turkey steaks, rice, mashed potato, white pasta and perhaps 1-2 desserts such as rice pudding or sponge cake. At this stage of the day, easily digesting carbohydrate becomes the priority but players will have their own personal preference at the pre-match meal. As a result, there may be more options available at this meal than a regular lunch in order to cope with the variety of player preferences. Beyond selection of meal, volume consumed will also vary considerably with some players content with a small bowl of soup whereas others will consume a full 3-course meal. Typically, the pre-match meal is served 2-4 hours before kick-off.


Post-match recovery nutrition is an area in which teams will vary considerably in their strategies. Generally, there are two approaches: 1. Relax the nutrition rules and serve the players higher fat and higher sugar foods in order to promote a high uptake of calories – the tasty but sledgehammer approach 2. Maintain with a strict nutrition plan and focus on the quality of calories – the professional but rigorous approach. In the first scenario you may see teams tucking into pizzas, fries, soft drinks and cakes either in the changing room after a game or when they return to the team hotel. Whereas scenario 2 sees players opting for chicken and vegetable skewers, sushi and recovery shakes post-game. There are positive and negative arguments to both scenarios and the nutrition team may choose to mix and match the strategies depending on the outcome of the game, the proximity to the next game and the general mood in the camp. Alcohol may also play a role in some team’s recovery strategies, both positively and negatively. A few beers between teammates and staff can promote a relaxed atmosphere and help foster relationships amidst a stressful tournament. However, if taken too far the impact upon recovery may hinder a player’s chances of selection for the next tie.


Most teams in the tournament will be using some form of nutritional supplementation to support their performances. From daily multivitamins and fish oils to recovery shakes and ergogenic aids, there is a role for numerous products in international rugby. I would expect the majority of teams to be using these products in some shape or form: • Multivitamin and/or Fish Oils: To minimise common dietary deficiencies and taken daily • Creatine: Enhanced utilisation of the PCr energy system and taken daily • Whey Protein: Either with or without added carbohydrate to support post-exercise recovery • Caffeine: Pre-exercise stimulant likely to be used Beyond these, most teams will have a range of additional strategies for key stages throughout the training week and on match-day.

Got any questions about RWC nutrition? Get in touch and we will do our best to answer. "


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