Click here to listen to Ian Gough
As part of the WRU's response to Health Challenge Wales, Wales captain Ryan Jones and the rest of the Wales tour squad, spoke to groups of 11 and 12-year-olds to highlight the importance of healthy eating and exercise. The players used a DVD starring themselves to get the messages across and pupils also quizzed their rugby heroes on the steps they should take in their daily lives to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Some of the healthy eating messages the players delivered included the importance of eating a good breakfast to kick start the day, the need to drink plenty of water, milk and sugar-free soft drinks, and the hidden dangers to be aware of on supermarket shelves.
Ryan Jones, and fellow Ospreys Ian Gough, Dan Biggar and uncapped centre Jonathan Spratt were at Margam Park where 150 Year 7 and 8 pupils from across Neath Port Talbot were taking part in an outdoor activity day organised by the county's 5 x 60 officers. All the children there had a chance to watch the DVD and gain some first hand advice from the rugby players on how to improve their health and fitness in their everyday lives.
Jones said, "Even at a young age, kids can take responsibility for the choices they make, especially regarding their diet and activity levels. One of the biggest lessons to learn is to be prepared, get up early and have a good breakfast and to be sensible with the shopping trolley.
"Everyone has a dream and as far as professional rugby players are concerned, playing for your country is the ultimate goal. We have learned that if you believe it enough and work hard enough to get there, it is possible to reach your goals, but diet and exercise are both vital elements in achieving that goal."
Ian Gough added, "If I've got bad food in the house, I know I'll eat it, so I try to eat before I go shopping, and I don't buy the unhealthy snacks I know I'll be tempted with if they're in the kitchen cupboard. It's ok to have a treat occasionally but we have all learned the hard way that you don't perform well if you don't eat and drink the right things."
Jonathan Spratt, who is hoping to win his first cap for Wales on the forthcoming tour of America and Canada said, "It's so important to encourage youngsters to get out and about and be healthy and active in whatever they do. I used to enjoy fast foods when I was younger but I realised that they often left me hungry and thirsty and I now choose to eat and drink more healthily. I've recently returned from New Zealand where there is a pretty healthy, outdoor culture and we should definitely get the message to our youngsters that a healthier lifestyle will help them throughout their lives."
Meanwhile, Wales and Sale Sharks scrum half Dwayne Peel went back to his roots by visiting pupils at his former comprehensive school, Ysgol Maes yr Yrfa, Cefneithin. Along with Scarlets and Wales backrow Dafydd Jones, Peel spoke to the Year 7 and 8 netball and rugby squads. Other schools visited by national squad players were Abertillery and Glyncoed comprehensive schools in Blaenau Gwent, Lewis Boys and Cwmcarn schools in Caerphilly, Pen y Dre and Cyfarthfa comprehensives in Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypridd High and Tonypandy Community College in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Kenfig Comprehensive in Bridgend County Borough.
The Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones welcomed the rugby players' involvement in the WRU's response to Health Challenge Wales, highlighting the importance of a healthy lifestyle and being physically active.
"Coming at a time when the Welsh Assembly Government is holding a public consultation on our physical activity action plan - 'Creating an Active Wales', it's great to see top Welsh rugby players getting involved with Health Challenge Wales.
"We want people in Wales to be more physically active on a daily basis because of the health, social and economic benefits that exercise provides, and I hope that children who attended these events will learn something about healthy living from our top players."