Yesterday’s post looked at how a change in the laws of the game might inadvertently be adding, according to several directors of rugby, to the growing injury lists amongst Premiership clubs at the moment – or so an article in The Times suggests.
A second article, this time in last weekend’s The Rugby Paper and written by Neale Harvey, focuses on the view of at least one former Premiership player that it’s not just ‘the obsession’ with the importance of contact and the need to carry the ball on match days that is the problem…
…it is also the emphasis on both during training as well that is partly to blame.
The player concerned is Ryan Lamb, formerly of Worcester and now at French Club, La Rochelle. TRP refers to him as being a long-term critic of ‘the often grinding nature of the Premiership’ – and his solution is one of which I can’t help but feel Rowland Winter would approve.
Indeed it is one that I suspect is already happening at Cov, but more of that a little later.
Ryan believes that the French have a far more effective approach to training, focusing as they do on a skills-based programme mid-week, with far less emphasis on contact in between games. He believes this is an important reason why there are less injuries in the French game than there are over on this side of the Channel.
In his words:
The tackles are more physical and there’s a much heavier load for players, particularly in training…there’s not much contact in training in France…if I was a prop and I’d just been through a ‘car crash’ the previous weekend, I wouldn’t want to be doing that two or three days later
I’m guessing this is a view that Rowland Winter would have some sympathy with. Take the last two weekend’s, with games against Esher and Bishop’s Stortford – both will have taken their toll on the players , especially the Stortford game which was a surprisingly physical game up front and one that probably didn’t go quite the way as planned.
There were a number of areas in last Saturday’s game that will obviously have caused the coaches some concern – the inability of the scrum to assert it’s usual dominance, the missed tackles at important moments and the loss of the ball in possession to name but three.
Now there would be some directors of rugby who might have wanted their players back in on the Monday to work on them, to drum home the importance of getting it right – but not so Rowland Winter.
Give the players the Monday off to recuperate and to think about what needs to be done to ensure next weekend’s performance is that much better.
No knee jerk reaction, no pressing of the panic button because we stuttered to a three point victory.
As a result, the players will have come back on Tuesday mentally and physically fresher than they would otherwise have done.
And now the season is in full swing, there seems to be less emphasis on full contact in training sessions too – certainly last Thursday, whilst there was a Captain’s Run of sorts, contact was only at 40 or 50% of the norm, if that, and the emphasis was less on impact and more on the move called.
Whether this is a deliberate decision on the part of the coaches to reduce the impact/physicality between players during training and therefore reducing the risk of potential injuries, or merely a different focus that week, is unclear. That said, the end result is the same. Players are not having to endure the contact in training that Lamb feels is partly responsible for the current spate of injuries we are seeing in the Premiership.
The week before, following the Esher game, training took place in a swimming pool where there will have been far less chance of any injures caused by impact or collision. Again, perhaps this is something that could be discussed at a future Supporters’ Club forum and certainly if Max and Hannah have the chance to speak to SC members it might be a focus for them – weighing up the need to practice areas of contact such as the tackle/ruck/maul whilst also preventing potential injuries that might accrue from practice in full-on training sessions.
Ryan goes on to say in the article that in France the emphasis is very much on the development of skills rather than contact, or ‘collision work’ as he refers to it. He makes the interesting point that in the English game if a team plays an open, attacking game with plenty of off-loads, should it go wrong then it will tighten up and return to the short-pass, ball-carrying approach on which so much of the English game is based. Lamb suggests this, ‘most likely explains the injuries’.
In France, if an expansive game breaks down for any reason, the French won’t give up on it:
If you make a break people try to make offloads and use support players to get behind, and if it doesn’t come off they don’t come away from that
I can’t help but think Coventry’s approach to training, and to the way we play the game in general, is one that Lamb would appreciate. The backs seem to have licence to attack and individual flair is something that the likes of Nick Walshe and Rowland Winer (thanks Sam!) encourage. Yes, there has to be the understanding of how to support players in attack, and how to defend when play breaks down, but Cov seldom ‘tighten up’ these days in the way he suggests some Premiership clubs might.
Perhaps all this highlights what a really good job Cov do over pre-season in terms of conditioning to prepare players for the physicality of the coming season and of protecting them mid-week once the league campaign has started.
Certainly, it appears that there is a fundamentally different approach to the game between the two countries and playing in France is something that Lamb is clearly relishing:
I’m only four months here but it’s improving me and, at the age of 31, I feel I’ve still got good years ahead because there are different skill-sets involved. I was getting very stale in England but playing against new teams has brought my hunger back
Let’s hang on to what we’ve got
Don’t let go girl we’ve got a lot
Got a lot of love between us
Hang on hang on hang on
To what we’ve got
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do
I’d pay any price to get in good with you
The Four Seasons – Let’s Hand On
Whilst The Rugby Paper provides plenty of excellent reading material week-in, week-out, it can be the kiss-of-death for many a side enjoying a prolonged spell of good form.
Fortunately for us, last weekend it was the turn of Darlington Mowden Park, about whom there was a interesting piece by John Newcombe recognising the fine start the side from County Durham had made in its opening five games.
Five games that were all won and won with the bonus point as well.
And then, the day before the article was published, Darlington suffer its first defeat and an unexpected one at that, against Old Albanian. Suddenly that article didn’t read in quite the way it might have done just 48 hours earlier.
Beware the curse of The Rugby Paper.
It’s the same across all sports – you’re doing well, results are going your way and suddenly the media are interested. It’s downhill from then on in my book.
Rowland Winter is very much his own man and wouldn’t be interested in any advice I have to offer…
…but I would tentatively suggest that if and when The Rugby Paper comes a-knocking with the idea of penning something similar in the light of Coventry’s current standing at the top of National One, RW should politely decline.
That said, it is an interesting read.
Danny Brown puts his club’s excellent start to the season down to ‘continuity of personnel’, having stuck with pretty much the same group of players as the previous year in which they could only manage a 10th place finish.
According to Brown:
In past we’ve introduced a raft of new players each season and it took a while for them to bed in. while this year we retained 26 of the squad and only added four, two of whom, Grant Cannon and Warren Seals, have played for us before
This is their fourth season in National One and Brown candidly admits that the club might be ‘a year or two’ off promotion yet but the article points out that in many ways the club is already geared up for the Championship with facilities in place to make the jump. I hadn’t twigged that until Leicester’s ground was redeveloped, Mowden Park:
was the biggest rugby dedicated stadium outside of Twickenham
although in fairness it was, I believe, originally built for use by Darlington Football Club.
The squad has been taken three years to build and is clearly benefiting from having been together for a while now. It doesn’t sound too dissimilar from what Rowland Winter was saying about Bishop’s Stortford, whose squad has also remained together for some time.
We saw at the weekend just what a benefit that can be as they took the game to the wire, despite the obvious advantage we had in terms of playing at home and with a squad containing a far more experienced and, arguably, skilful group of players.
Next time a phone calls comes through to the Office from The Rugby Paper inquiring about an interview with Rowland or Jon, hopefully the message will be relayed that both are ‘out and about’ and will be for the remainder of the season…
I think one of the things we’ve learned over the last six or seven seasons is that the more players entering and exiting the club, the more problems it causes.
Continuity seems to be one of the keys to success…
Much better to hang on to what you got….
and girl, we got a lot…
If you haven’t managed to see The Jersey Boys yet, preferably the stage version, it’s well worth the effort…even got me up out of my seat and that is saying something these days.