For the past week or so, it has been back to work for the Ciel et Blanc players, joined this morning by the new recruits. Under the watchful eye of trainer Gilbert Gascou and his two assistants Michel Miro and Laurent Debrousse, in high spirits the Racingmen are laying the foundation of their fitness for the new season. (Credit photo : Emilie Manchon)
Gilbert, the players have just started training again after a four-week break. What sort of shape are they in?
At the end of the season, physically and mentally the players were worn out. They needed a complete break, to give their body and their mind time to recover. We asked them to rest, and to take a complete break from training. As a result, they didn’t really lose any speed, they didn’t really lose any of their qualities, they just rested. It did them good, just by resting they improved! We are not surprised to discover that the guys are fresh, and freshness often makes the difference in a lot of factors, such as speed for example.
What is special about the pre-season training programme?
It is special because at the moment, we can do things we are not usually able to do. During the season, there is the pressure of the competition, you have to be efficient, you have to win games, so you have to manage player fatigue. But right now, there are no games, so we don’t have to worry about fatigue. Regulations mean that we are not allowed to play, but at the same time, we have also decided not to have any rugby content. Just a bit of technique so they don’t forget what the ball feels like. They mustn’t lose that! But the priority is to target the physical qualities of the players.
After the holiday break, is the aim to recharge their batteries, or rather to build their fitness for the coming season?
Three weeks is not long enough to develop their various qualities. It’s what I call a period of reactivating their basic qualities: basic fitness, speed and strength. We are not trying to increase their physical attributes; we are just firing them up again after a period of recovery. Before moving on to something else.
Do you also resort to more playful activities, but which are also related to the game?
Of course. At the moment, the players have a huge workload. It can become pretty tedious, so from time to time we factor in more playful activities that enable us to reduce the intensity, but also to add high spirits, good humour and rivalry into the mix. By doing different things, we can work on different qualities. In terms of coordination, for instance, we use exercises which are not directly related to rugby, but which provoke the same sorts of reactions, and which are just as valuable for the development of the athlete and the player.
Where do you get your inspiration for these different activities?
First we look at the game of rugby. Why? To try and extract what is most important. In terms of coordination and fitness, what is the best way of doing something? So we try and invent activities linked to the game. They are not specific, they are not rugby, but are rugby-oriented. They resemble the things that are done in certain phases of play, whether they are pushing, pulling, rotating, playing on their feet or on the ground. When we ask players to execute a series of passes while sitting on a chair with their feet off the ground, it’s working on their motor skills, but also their core muscles. Last week, we had them doing an exercise based on the tackle zone: the player on all fours, working on upper body motor skills. These are situations which you come across regularly in games: at a ruck the player is on all fours, and he has to move about and be active. That’s it: we are recalling and reactivating certain physical situations. But as we don’t have much time, we have to think about it, and try and condense as much work as possible in the time available. So that the players can benefit from it once they start playing again.
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