Academy lays foundations for 'perfect' rugby player
GLOUCESTER academy coaches have developed a prototype for the perfect Cherry and Whites star.
The Kingsholm production line has a new blueprint to work around – and meticulous strength and conditioning will help create more potent top-flight stars than ever.
Bodyweight control and competence in movement is allowing Gloucester to shape even 13-year-olds faster.
Rather than gradually phase in weights-based exercises, Gloucester believe they can gain more early progress by focusing on developing youngsters' range of rugby-specific movements.
Gents, come in to Earl's & Co and enjoy a haircut and finish, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £18.50
Terms: Later and earlier appointments available upon request
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Building joint and ligament stability, the academy's conditioners are now focusing on providing youngsters with strong foundations for when the weights sessions do eventually crank up.
Assistant academy manager Simon Lane believes Gloucester are starting to build templates for how their ideal finished product will look and move – down to far more than just power and skill.
Gloucester strength and conditioning coach Eamonn Hyland works tirelessly to help the young academy prospects prepare for the ever-increasing physical demands of professional rugby.
Lane said: "A lot of what Eamonn does is based around movement competency and it's all bodyweight and controlling your bodyweight.
"So bounding exercises make sure there's joint stability.
"Physio Andy McDonough screens the boys, to look at movement issues that could be a weakness in future and handle them before they become a problem.
"So as well as knowing that the Under-13s can pass a specific distance off both their left and right hand at a competent level, they will also be able to move in the right ways.
"We'll take that through each age group.
"The long-term idea is that we then end up with a bit of a template from which you can determine what a Gloucester player should look like.
"The whole idea is to raise those standards right across the board, so whatever level they eventually achieve, they will improve rugby standards across the area."
Gloucester and the Gloucestershire RFU are pioneering the RFU's new 'Developing Player Programme' in the new season.
The Kingsholm club will keep more players in their academy system until the age of 16 than ever before, in a bid not to overlook late developers.
Representative rugby boss at the GRFU Nigel Gillingham has worked closely with Gloucester to compile the new project.
Academy chief Lane said Gloucester would spend more time working with junior-level coaches from local clubs, in addition to beefing up the work they did with promising youngsters.
He continued: "The coach education side of things will step up as well.
"The community department run a quality coach education programme, but ours will be more on the level of education but with open communication with coaches at club level.
"It's important they understand what we're doing and why.
"Anything we can pass on to them that they can deliver en masse will only benefit what we're doing anyway, so it's another relationship that can hopefully benefit everyone.
"We will have some sessions, but there will be an informal level too, and that less structured side is important, because every team has different attributes of course and everyone has different objectives to suit their different players.
"We relish having club coaches up at Hartpury so they can gain insight into what we're doing, but also so we can help improve what they're doing if possible.
"We try where possible to tailor what we do to individual needs."