A month into pre-season training, head of athletic performance Kevin McShane is already beginning to see major progress being made by Newcastle Falcons’ players.
The bulk of the squad returned for pre-season on June 13 ahead of the Aviva Premiership kick-off at home to Sale Sharks on Friday September 2, with a number of those who have been away on international duty already joining their club-mates.
Fiji’s Vereniki Goneva will link up with the squad later this month following his mandatory rest period after the June internationals while summer signings Nick Civetta, Ben Sowrey, Sam Lockwood, Joel Hodgson, Evan Olmstead, Andrew Davidson, Sam Egerton and Harrison Orr are already in training.
McShane said: “The players have had four tough weeks under their belt and this year we have had a denser programme than previously. They have been doing four or five sessions a day and working pretty hard – they will get a break this week and then next week be right back into it.
“We have done a lot more on-feet work this year and more contact conditioning. They are probably the two areas we really felt we could improve on - we wanted to make it a focus and things like wrestling have been introduced to the schedule. That brings an element of contact, it brings variety and the rugby coaches have some input into it rather than it just being about strength and conditioning. The boys have enjoyed it so far, it has gone well and we will see the benefits of that during the season.”
Joined by new strength and conditioning coaches Lewis Williams and Tim Payne, McShane added: “As well as the nuts and bolts of our gym work and on-field conditioning we have been mixing it up with a few beach sessions, a couple of trips off-site and getting plenty of ball in hand. From day one we have incorporated skills sessions into the programme, the guys have had rugby all the way through pre-season and it is important they get that.
“It is very easy to get monotonous very quickly during a pre-season so you are always thinking of ways to stimulate the players and to keep their minds as fresh as they can be. It is important to keep them guessing, get lots of different sessions in, and the response has been good to the programme we have put in place.”
Relieved to have a ‘normal’ summer schedule after the prolonged pre-season brought about by last year’s delayed start to the Premiership campaign, the head of athletic performance said: “Last year was almost too much time for pre-season, whereas this year it is a lot easier for the guys to come in and get focused. Because the season is a little bit closer they can get their minds set early doors, and it has been good getting back into more of a normal routine.
“After four very tough weeks now the guys who were with us from the start are away on a recovery week. They just need those few days to rest up, recharge, do their own little bits of training and come back ready for the next block of team training next week.
“That block will be a little bit of a continuation of the work we have been doing on the strength and conditioning side, but understandably the rugby training gradually starts to take more of a prominent role. There will be much more of a technical focus, we have a week away at a training camp coming up from July 25 and the boys have plenty to look forward to.”
Newcastle Falcons’ pre-season match schedule
Sat July 30: Singha Premiership 7s (Kingston Park Stadium, 3pm, live on BT Sport)
Sat Aug 6: v Nottingham (at Darlington Mowden Park, 3pm)
Sun Aug 7: Singha Premiership 7s finals (at Wasps’ Ricoh Arena, 2pm, live on BT Sport)
Sat Aug 13: v Doncaster Knights (Kingston Park Stadium, 3pm)
Fri Aug 19: Gala RFC v Falcons Development Team (at Netherdale, Galashiels, 7.30pm)
Fri Aug 26: v Edinburgh (BT Murrayfield, 7.30pm)
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