Mark Twiggs says Exeter Chiefs players can expect to be ‘pushed to the limit’ during what will be a gruelling pre-season programme for the squad ahead of the new 2015/16 season.
With the Aviva Premiership set for a later start this term due to this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, the make-up of seasonal plans have been somewhat changed for all 12 top flight clubs in England.
Twiggs, who heads up the Strength & Conditioning department at the Chiefs, has spent much of the off season devising a structured training programme which he believes will ensure Rob Baxter’s team is in fine fettle ahead of their opening pre-season friendly against Gloucester on September 5.
“The guys have had six-and-a-half weeks off so it’s an integrated approach to get them back in,” explained Twiggs, who saw the majority of the Chiefs squad report back for duty on Monday morning.
“It’s a chance to see where they are, see what shape they’re in, then set a few precedents down and set the tone for pre-season and build in. This week will be a steady week for the guys, but then we start putting pressure on and really cranking it up from next week onwards.”
Like last summer, the Chiefs will be based away from their regular training quarters at Sandy Park and will instead do their hard work at a specific training base in Topsham.
Utilising those facilities, as well as other focal points around the region, are essential for Twiggs and his conditioning team as they look to harness the power and pace of the Exeter squad during the coming weeks.
“It’s the fantastic thing about being in this part of the world,” he said. “The county and the South West has so much to offer that it would be a crime not to maximise what we have.
“Having the facility to go down the beach and do the beach sessions, come to Topsham with the great relationship we have with Exeter University, it really helps having the ability to do those things.
“For me, I don’t see the need to take the guys all around the country doing various things when you have got it on your doorstep. All you have to do with this group of players, because they want to go flat-out with everything, is just provide the chance for them to do that.
“Being here (at Topsham) is fantastic and we’ll keep using it as long as we can.”
As a player, though, pre-season is part and parcel of their professional duties and although it’s a necessary evil in some respects, Twiggs knows it’s a crucial time in terms of seasonal preparations.
“Gone are the days of the guys being able to cut back and do nothing,” explained Twiggs. “The physios and conditioners have been in all the way through the off-season and guys have been able to come in, do their sessions, and then go home and spend time with their families and stuff like that.
“We know how hard they’ve been working and they have been putting in the miles in the off-season, which is fantastic. Now it’s a case of really being able to get every little extra bit of performance out of each person, make sure we push each person to the limit of their performance so that we can get them, individually and as a team, where they need to be.”
And like England have been keen to stress ahead of their own Rugby World Cup preparations, getting the most out of every player is vital ahead of what will be a big season.
Twiggs continued: “Everyone’s pushing as hard as they can across all the clubs and we’re no different. We’re pushing the limits of where the guys can go, the robustness and ensuring that we keep them able to do so day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month.
“The seasons are getting tougher and tougher and the games get tougher and tougher and having a squad that can have the robustness and able to bounce and tolerate the demands is really important.”
With standards rising so much, Twiggs and the S&C department leave no stone turned in terms of monitoring the demands of the Chiefs squad.
“Monitoring over the last few seasons has increased 10-fold, and that shows no sign of stopping,” added Twiggs. “For us it’s about monitoring every individual, making sure we’re putting the best plan in place for each of them so that they can do what they do, which is be the athletes they are and perform to the level that they can. Without that monitoring you do not get that robustness across the season.
“That task is made a lot easier by the staff we have in the team. The medics, physios, docs, S&C guys, we’re all one team, there is no leader, it’s all about the bits that everyone puts in. It is a big team effort and that’s not just the players, it’s the coaches, conditioners and backroom staff – we all work fantastically well and push the guys as hard as we can.
“That’s what you see in our culture; there is no one individual, it’s what we are combined as a team and a unit.”