Cherry and Whites make a big splash at Cheltenham Lido
GLOUCESTER'S players will be better athletes on the pitch this season thanks to some out of the ordinary training methods.
The Cherry and Whites squad have been playing water polo three mornings a week at the Sandford Park Lido in Cheltenham as preparations for the new campaign get under way.
The club's new head of strength and conditioning, Paddy Anson, who has helped oversee Exeter's emergence in the last few years, has been putting the Kingsholm charges through their paces.
A recent study found water polo to be one of the most physically demanding sports in the world and Anson said new director of rugby Nigel Davies will see plenty of benefit.
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Former Royal Marine Anson explained: "You could do an endurance circuit in the gym for 40 minutes but you can do the same thing in a 30-minute session in the water.
"You also build the lung capacity of the players with the underwater swimming that we are doing.
"The recovery element is important too because they are training hard in pre-season and whether we do water polo or swimming, there is a big recovery element.
"The pressure of the water, especially the deeper you go, allows for a better recovery.
"The guys will become better athletes on the pitch as a result.
"I am not saying swimming is the be all and end all of training for it, but it is another dimension we can use which gives the players really good benefits.
"With 40 minutes of swimming or treading water, there are no real rest times, the only rest time is getting in and out of the water so it is pretty taxing and tough on the body for the guys."
Anson has used water work for the last four seasons at Sandy Park and said the workouts would continue throughout the campaign when it gets under way in September.
The help it gives to players on their way back from injury was also clear to see with the likes of Nick Wood, Charlie Sharples, James Simpson-Daniel and Akapusi Qera taking full part.
There was no shortage of competition either with newly-appointed player/coach Mike Tindall firing in a halfway line screamer which David Beckham would have been proud of.
Snipers Jonny May and Sharples were a constant threat around the goalmouth, which bodes well for when they take to the pitch if they have an early taste for scoring already.
Stalwart Pete Buxton was a constant source of strength in between the sticks, keeping out a number of impressive efforts to frustrate his fellow squad members.
Lineout chief Alex Brown showed his towering talents by launching a few missiles towards the top corners and budding tight head Shaun Knight displayed a delicate touch for a big man.
And Anson said the facilities were perfect for giving the players an extensive workout.
"They are all training really hard and it is a great place to involve them without any due risk of injury," he added.
"The good thing is it is a great 50-metre pool here so it is a better facility then what we have used in the past.
"We have the whole deep end to use as opposed to just the shallow end when players can rest, so it is a really tough environment to be in."
Manager of the lido, Julie Sargent, insisted none of the professional athletes have had to be rescued by any of the lifeguards so far.
She said: "We have had a number of the team come here on their own or with their families which is fabulous.
"But this is the first time the whole squad have been down here and it is brilliant and we love having them here and it sets them up for the start of their season.
"They are incredibly fit guys and we made sure we put on extra lifeguards just in case we had to fish any of them out if we needed to, but they have incredible power and it is incredible to see.
"It really is like an outdoor gym. When people exercise outside they tend to forget the pain to a certain degree and enjoy the atmosphere as much as anything else."