Week 11, 12 & 13.
01/09/14 - 20/09/14
We are now 3 weeks in to the season.
Not a bad start, but very far from perfect.
If you follow rugby, and in particular if you follow Quins, you will know what I mean when I say far from perfect. The first game against London Irish at Twickenham on the 6th September as part of the London Double Header was a pretty cool occasion. I wasn't working the game, Richie had the pleasure of running out at Twickenham this time. Lucky bastard. But I did go to watch.
The first game was a lot more interesting than I anticipated as Wasps gave Saracens a very close game and only lost out in the closing minutes.
Then our game - in the first half we looked very dominant and put some decent structure in place and looked confident. Then in the second half we collapsed. Penalties all went against us, we had players sin-binned etc. But we still came out winners.
Training this week was very interesting for me as you could tell that all the players were so keen and eager to get into game day. There was another huge buzz around training, everyone seemed very happy and also very focused. It was a really great atmosphere to work in, and you could see people talking little bits and bobs about structure and tactics when wandering around whereas before that was only in meetings and training. Everything became about this one game.
In terms of our training week, it didn't change a huge amount from how we had prepared for Pre-Season fixtures. Monday and Tuesday were the main grunt days, with therapy, skills, speed, weights and rugby. Then the players get Wednesdays off. Thursday is a fairly regular day, therapy, weights, rugby. Friday changes though as instead of being a full training day it was now a run-through day. This meant the players involved in the game would be at The Stoop doing some basic plays and running through their general patterns for the game the next day. Players not involved had some S&C stuff at SSP but pretty much just a regular weights session and optional conditioning.
So yeah as I said, nothing too different except the structure of the week and the layout workload wise.
Week 2 - Saracens at home.
Not really a lot to say about this. We lost and lost big. And worst of all, we scored a big fat ZERO points. Not good at all. I again wasn't working this game, Henry had it, and I imagine the atmosphere was pretty strange among the bench and staff etc.
This presented something pretty interesting to me in that I wondered how the players and staff would react and adjust things at training. I remember from playing that when we used to lose, and even more so when we lost big, we would get a right flogging and all the coaches would spend all the training that week trying to get us up for the following game to put things right.
But this is a much different atmosphere to anything I've done before, and you can tell. On Monday the whole thing was basically already buried and put in the past. A one-off. The one of which we do not speak.
The week was slightly different this week. First off the dreaded HotPod Yoga showed up again on the schedule on Monday. Forgot how much of a pain in the arse this thing is. But it's only once a week so not the end of the World. The next big difference was the week structure as it was a Friday night game. So the players still did their main work on Monday & Tuesday, Wednesday was off, Thursday was the run through, and the only players around on the Friday were those players not involved in the game - again just for some weights and conditioning. These days are quite good for us interns as 1-it gives us an extra day to earn money if we have work & 2-if we go in it gives us the opportunity to work quite closely with players as there aren't too many in on these days so it's close to one-to-one work.
Another new thing this week was the "A-League" game on Monday night. We had a fixture against Wasps "A" at The Stoop. I was the intern working this game, and I really enjoyed it. There wasn't much of a crowd but it was a good experience for me as I got to have a mic and ear-piece whilst running water, getting given messages from the coaches to feedback to the players when I ran on. Gives you an insight into how things run on a regular game-day as it's very similar - just up a notch or two. The "A-League" is designed for Premiership sides to blood young players and give them a bit of exposure. It allows these players the chance to show the things they've learnt in training without all the pressure of the Premiership. Plus - it is used a little bit of a stepping stone to see who has what it takes at that level as you get a lot of returning players from injury so it's not all up and comers but some pretty big names play in these games when coming back.
We won the game and put in a fairly decent performance which pleased the coaches as the players responded very well to all the messages being fed to them .
Week 3 - Wasps.
The week leading up to this was very much the same as the others. Nothing overly new came into place, the only difference now is that a lot more tailoring happens in the gym sessions as players come back in different condition - some really beat up, some pretty fresh. So it's about adjusting work-load to best fit their condition on the day.
The Wasps game itself was really good. I got myself some tickets from the club and went along to watch, I ended up sitting with all the lads not involved in the game (the injured or unused). That was pretty cool as otherwise I was going to be sat on my tod. Plus it let me see what the players are like when they're not playing, and how they treat the games as a spectator.
We won the game, but it ended up being closer than it maybe should have been. We had an ok first half performance, then when we came out for the second half we had a really positive 20 minutes or so. The performance looked very much like the Quins we want to see, very free-flowing and attractive rugby, but with big defensive performances.
The final 20 minutes or so we started to drift off a little and Wasps came back into the game to eventually be 2 points behind at the final whistle. It was always going to be a close game as it always is between these two teams, but it was very good to see the lads respond so well to the loss the week before, and to see them finally play the way they want to again. That hadn't been seen since the first half against London Irish in week 1.
So hopefully this week the mood will be pretty good, and then we have a big challenge next week going to Exeter on Sunday. Exeter have looked very strong so far - they thrashed London Welsh in week 1, lost narrowly to Leicester in week 2, and they beat Gloucester on Friday night. So this could be a great game to watch. Unfortunately as it's an away game none of the interns get to go and help, but the following week against London Welsh I get to have my first Prem Game. Should be fun.
So there you have it folks, a little look into how things change when the competitive season starts. The biggest thing I would say is the adjustments that get made to allow for players' recovery and progression.
Hope you all still enjoy reading, any feedback is always welcome as I know it can get a little samey but I will try to keep it as fresh as possible and show you all what goes on.