Rugby League star Peter Fox has no problem playing in front of thousands of people each week, but he needed hypnosis to calm his nerves before tackling his first public speaking engagement.

The Wakefield Wildcats and ex-England winger wanted to help his girlfriend’s nutrition business and accepted an invitation to speak to a Hull audience about the importance of fitness, nutrition and training in his career.

He said: “I’ve given press interviews but public speaking is a different ball game. I felt I needed help not just to deliver the words, but also to get it right.

“I focus 100 per cent on rugby and play in front of thousands, but preparing to talk to an audience of 30 to 40 people got me very uptight. “

Peter turned to clinical hypnotherapist Linda Johnson, who runs Release Your Potential in Beverley, to help him convert what he wanted to say into a winning presentation.

He said: “I know a lot of people are sceptical about sports hypnotherapy but I embraced it. I have read about sports stars such as Ronnie O’Sullivan and Tiger Woods using similar methods to help them in their professional lives, and I think it does help.”

“At the first meeting I had with Linda, I did a run through of my talk which showed just how much help I needed. I was approaching the talk as I would a match, all guns blazing, but I didn’t want to batter the audience.

“We discussed preparation, content, speed of delivery, body language and how to build a relationship with the audience. I used Linda’s relaxation CDs and then I had two hypnosis sessions to calm my nerves, build confidence and channel all that nervous energy into strengthening my presentation skills.”

“The second session was just three hours before I gave my talk and it worked well. I was relaxed and had a lot more confidence, and I felt I talked slower. Any negative thoughts I’d had were gone. I focused on the presentation and didn’t worry about anything else.”

Linda went along to hear Peter’s talk and was impressed with her pupil: “He was calm, engaging and was able to answer questions easily. In the longer term I think he could do well on a public speaking circuit.

“Public speaking can be a terrifying experience. It’s up there in the top ten list of things people fear most. “

Peter, 28, said all he ever wanted to do was play rugby. He’s played for England six times and would love to do so again.

“As you get older you build resilience and mental strength but I’ve always been keen to learn more and improve my performance. My focus is on my sport but like any player, you have to think about the future. We don’t get footballers’ wages in rugby league so you have to build on this career and prepare for a life after rugby.”

Peter is a qualified personal trainer and, in the longer term, is interested in developing his interest in coaching, fitness and nutrition. He said: “Doing this speaking engagement took me out of my comfort zone but I’m pleased I did it. I feel like I’ve learned a new skill and one that will be very useful in future.

“I also think what I have learned in the hypnotherapy sessions with Linda is relevant to sport as well. You have to focus on what matters and on self-improvement. So there’s a lot I can take from this experience and I would certainly have more hypnotherapy if I felt I needed it.

“My girlfriend is pretty stressed at the moment – so I’m booking her an appointment with Linda!”