If the fragility and frustration of professional rugby union has been brought into focus over the past six months, one anonymous Instagram account has been preaching the same message for a good while longer.
Since last February, ‘Team Bin Juice’ has acquired over 22,000 followers while putting an amusing spin on the quirks of life as a squad player.
Run by a poster with experience at the very highest level of the sport, it covers a number of unseen aspects through the medium of mischievous memes.
Extra fitness sessions, demoralising interaction with coaches and, of course, holding tackle-bags have all featured. Current players regularly tap the ‘like’ button, testament to how accurate the observations are. They tag their peers in replies. You can purchase ‘TBJ’ caps.
“There are a lot of names for ‘Team Bin Juice’,” explains former England flanker James Haskell, a big fan of the account.
“In New Zealand, they are ‘Dirt-Trackers’. When I was at Wasps, it was originally ‘Team Fox S---’ because where we trained, in Acton, there was fox s--- on the pitch a lot of the time.
“The stuff is so toxic that your training session was over if you came into contact with it. More often than not, that happened to the young kids. I remember tackling Matt Everard, who is now a transition coach at Wasps, into some.
“The phrase ‘bin juice’ seems to have filtered around the clubs, now. The concept is that every team in every sport has ‘bin juice’ – players that are never going to get a game no matter what they do. In football, third-choice goalkeepers are iconic members of ‘Team Bin Juice’.
“Yet they are the foundation of the team. If they go off the boil, training dips. Morale dips. They will whisper in corners. They will bitch. It is not the starters you have to keep happy. It is the other guys.”
Jeff Williams, the former England Sevens international, appeared on The Magic Academy podcast earlier this year and used the same term when describing how the tone of a changing room is set by “The Bin Juice”.
“You also have to do pre-match gigs in corporate boxes listening to people with red wine breath tell you they could have made it without some knee injury they suffered,” Haskell adds.
“And the problem is that anyone in Team Bin Juice always believes they should be playing themselves, so you find yourself on the same wavelength as these characters with all the excuses.”
Due to injuries and back-row competition, Haskell paid his dues among the Bin Juice of various club and international squads. Appearances in the Anglo-Welsh Cup for Wasps at the age of 32 were particularly eye-opening for him.
He believes honesty is the best policy for coaches when it comes to squad players.
“I’ll give you an example. During the 2017 Lions tour, a lot of the midweek side – we called ourselves ‘midweek veg’ – were full Bin Juice.
“Steve Borthwick spent extra time with call sheets and was a great motivator for us. Ultimately, the wins in midweek brought the tour back on track.
“At the end of sessions, first-teamers get all the love and all the huddles. People like Steve Borthwick will stay on to do extra drills and watch video clips with others. He’s the ultimate Bin Juice motivator.”
Such empathy, and energy, bodes well for Leicester Tigers. On the other hand, delivering false hope is never advisable.
“The enemy of a member of the Bin Juice is usually someone like a scrum coach,” Haskell continues. “The problem is that you are always in their starting XV, or so they tell you.”
“You will go to the head coach for advice and they won’t remember your name, then you will go to this person and they’ll say you that you should be starting… the problem is that you quickly work out that they’ve said that to 33 people.”
Haskell strings together a barrage of serious points undercut by dry humour. The chaotic contract negotiations brought about by Covid-19 have spawned a series of posts on Team Bin Juice.
“Some lads have been in take-it-or-leave situations with lower pay and no recourse,” Haskell finishes. “No other clubs want them because they haven’t played enough. Other markets, like France, have closed. Championship clubs have lost funding.
“There will have been a lot of Team Bin Juice members messed around and, when your mental health is teetering on the edge because you’ve been issued a bib and a tackle-bag with your initials on it from day one, it’s an uphill climb.”
When the Premiership does resume, especially given such a manic fixture schedule, appeasing squad players will be vital.