Week two tends to be slightly more settled than week one. With the first round of testing complete and everyone familiar with the layout of the coming weeks, there is an increased focus on rugby specific training. For example, designated unit sessions give forwards the opportunity to have their ability to perform the basics scrutinised. New members of staff Jerry Flannery and Mick O' Driscoll have the chance to observe and impart a wealth of knowledge and advice to them. Progressions of difficulty are made from session to session. Higher standards are expected by the coaching staff and expected to be strived towards by players at every opportunity. However, there certainly isn't any less of an emphasis on strength and conditioning. In a similar fashion to the rugby, each fitness session is more challenging than the last. In the gym, levels of strength which would have been reached at the end of last season are gradually closed in on, even after a single week of training.
Personally, week two has seen me make huge strides forward. Each week that passes sees an injured player being less and less restricted in what type of training he is able to complete. I was delighted to complete my first full conditioning hit on the pitch on Friday morning. A sense of dread always accompanies a return to high intensity running after a lengthy break. However, this is completely dwarfed by the sense of achievement when it's done. Being unable to run is probably what frustrates an injured player the most, particularly at this time of year. It's strange to envy your team mates when you see them being tortured on the pitch by our resident slave master PJ Wilson, but you certainly do. The most effective tool for conditioning available to individuals who are unable to run is the wattbike (see right). For those who are unfamiliar with the wattbike, this is an instrument which seems to have the unique ability to make a professional rugby player whimper like a dog who is begging to come inside during a storm. If anyone reading this has spotted a wattbike in their gym and wondered what it was, I would encourage them to give it a go. I'm sure you'll develop a sense of empathy quite quickly.
Today we welcome back the eight members of the squad who were selected to tour Argentina. Their return will be a good boost to training numbers and they will undoubtedly add to the atmosphere of the group for the remainder of pre-season. I look forward to updating you on their first week back.