Gloucester Rugby: Breakdown isn't the time for social loafing warns Nigel Davies
PULL your weight at the breakdown, Nigel Davies has challenged his Gloucester squad.
The Kingsholm rugby director has turned social psychologist in a bid to drive the best out of his Cherry and Whites charges this term.
In 1913 Parisian Max Ringlemann asked a group of men to perform a tug of war experiment.
The agricultural engineering professor could never have imagined the results would still resonate 100 years later – let alone underpin a Premiership rugby club's pre-season training.
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His guinea pigs slacked off in the safety of the group, expecting others to take the strain.
The Ringlemann effect was coined, now more commonly known as social loafing.
At Gloucester this year, Davies is having none of it.
Social loafers are forced to be more productive when working individually.
Gloucester are at their best when the sum is more potent than the parts.
And Davies knows that applies most to the fiercest battleground – the breakdown.
The former Wales centre has called on his squad to raid the tackle area with fewer numbers than ever when defending.
Get the ratios right, and Gloucester will then have more chance of squeezing opponents behind the gain-line and spoiling rivals' attacking threat.
When the Cherry and Whites take on Munster at Thomond Park today (kick-off 5pm), Davies wants to see the first evidence of this increased breakdown efficiency.
He said: "The trouble with large numbers in the contact area, you get a certain amount of social loafing, because people are reliant on other people to do the work for them.
"If there's only one or two in there they've got to work their socks off.
"I went along to Twickenham to watch the sevens, and what you see there is that boys have to work hard in the contact area and make their tackles, because if they don't they'll get exposed.
"In the 15-a-side game sometimes people can hide a little bit, so we're making a big emphasis on nobody hiding, everybody knowing their roles and doing their jobs. If we do that, we'll do well.
"The work defensively in the contact area is vital. If done properly it will allow the team to re-set and get on the front foot, and take away the gain-line from the opposition."
Intrigued by how his players will respond to several new demands, Davies said pre-season is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind.
He said: "There are a couple of things specifically that I want to see, within the team.
"Because some of these things are new they are being put under pressure for the first time, it will be interesting to see how the boys adapt to it.
"It revolves around game management, how we play in certain areas and look to control the game, but then also how we keep the ball alive and change the point of attack.
"Sometimes you've got to be a bit bold, and this is the best time experiment.
"Nothing's won in pre-season, but certainly we can lay the foundations and so that's what we're looking to do.
"I think they'll be a bit of a mixed bag a bit like us in terms of this match.
"It's very important coming on the back of all the hard work that's been done, that we channel that effort in the right direction and make sure we're there or thereabouts.
"I don't expect us to be picture perfect, but I expect to see quite a lot in our game that we can build on and fine-tune over the next couple of weeks really."