England flanker James Haskell has been engaging in gruelling Ultimate Fighting Championship-style training to hone his rugby skills.
Haskell has completed two sessions at London Shootfighters gym which holds classes in boxing, Muay Thai, shoot-box, and freestyle wrestling - the disciplines that constitute mixed martial arts.
The popularity of MMA competitions such UFC and Cage Rage, where opponents clash in an eight-sided enclosure called 'The Octagon', has rocketed in recent years.
And Haskell, who will feature in England's back row for the RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales on February 2, believes many of the skills are transferable to the rugby pitch.
Wrestling has been his main focus so far but the 22-year-old Wasps flanker also enjoys boxing and is already beginning to see the benefits of his new training regime.
Haskell said: “I don't want to suddenly change career - doing the MMA is just to add another element to my rugby.
“There are similarities between wrestling and rugby and it's obvious how one can help the other.
“They're both about controlling your own body weight and using your opponent's body weight to your advantage.
“If a player is running at you, you can use his weight to pivot, put him down and get straight back on your feet to steal the ball.
“That's something I've been trying to bring into my game. Doing MMA has been very useful and is also something different to break up the routine of rugby training.
“It changes how your body works because in rugby you can end up being one dimensional.
“Wrestling is good but I really like the boxing, especially the technical aspect in how to throw a punch correctly.
“I like the aggressive element of rugby and there's an intensity to the MMA training that makes the two sports very similar.”
Haskell, 22, is one of the brightest prospects to emerge from English rugby for many years and has been tipped as a future Test captain.
Tall, powerful and athletic, he sets the mould for the modern back row forward and is expected to feature throughout the Six Nations, adding to his two caps.
Complimenting his natural attributes is a strong work-ethic that has inspired him to look outside rugby in search of new techniques to enhance his development.
That ambition has already driven him to seek guidance from sprint coach Margot Wells and sports physiologist Dr Jill Owen, before taking him in a completely new direction.
Haskell said: “Some of the guys at Shootfighters are very agile and have superb control of their body with lots of rotation, which is very useful to a rugby player.
“When I'm down there the instructors don't beat me up because they know that first and foremost my job is to play rugby.
“The training is balanced - I'm not doing heavy fitness or ground and pound (a tactic whereby the fighter takes down his opponent, obtains a top position and then repeatedly strikes him in the face).
“I'm careful with the training and I won't have much opportunity to pursue it with the Six Nations coming up. But once the Six Nations is over I'll be going down there to do a bit more work.”