Welcome to the insightful Part 3 of our Q&A series with Tom Daly, where we delve into the trenches of pre-season preparation – a pivotal phase in the life of a professional rugby player.
Tom going through some prowler work during pre-season.
Tom, how has pre-season been going this year?
As always, pre-season was been extremely tough! Training load increases, training intensity is above game level, longer gym sessions and longer days. We train 4 days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We have a recovery day on a Wednesday where masseuses and physios will be on site for any treatment needed for players. Players will have their own recovery routine, I use yoga, the sauna and ice baths. We have a new coaching team in Connacht this year and I’ve really been enjoying the new ideas being brought to the table by the coaching team. As well as being very physically tough, there is a lot of learning done through team meetings , video sessions and player meetings. Overall, it’s been a really enjoyable pre-season so far, we are not too far away from our first pre-season friendly against Ulster which is very exciting.
Talk us through a typical pre-season day.
Players will arrive on site usually around 8am. Firstly we will get our monitoring done which would include bodyweight, sit and reach test, groin squeeze test and a CMJ. This information gives the sports science team an idea of squads “readiness to train” that day and will flag any potential issues that need to be assessed prior to training. We then have an hour of individual preparation where players will get their bodies ready for the day. Players will use this hour to stretch, do mobility work, do any individual prehab exercises programmes they have and potentially meet in positional group to go over any training clips that need to be reviewed. At 9.30 we will have our team meeting in which the coaches will present rugby information, whether that be a review of training from the previous day, reviews of other games or information on how we want to play this season. We will then have our main pitch session of the day- this varies every day- but may begin with a warm up and speed work with the Strength and conditioning coaches, then some skill work, high intensity small sided games, and finish with high intensity game play 15 vs 15. After the pitch session we will have our lunch on site. In the afternoon the forwards and backs are split. Backs will do their gym session while the forwards do their units session on the pitch and then swap over. To finish the day, players will split into groups and review training video on the computers and do their own individual reviews. We will typically finish up around 4.30pm in pre-season.
Can you give us some insights into your gym sessions?
As you can imagine, there is a big focus on gym sessions during pre-season. With no games, it gives us an opportunity to train at a very high intensity in the gym that we may not get to in season when we have games week on week. This body of work will give us a base of strength and robustness for the season ahead. All of our sessions are total body, however, 2 have a lower limb focus, 1 upper limb focus and 1 upper limb and power. Our compound lifts, bench press for upper body and back squat for lower body, will focus on high weight low reps for the most part, this allows to build strength. Pre-season also gives us time to focus on getting our bodies in the best possible condition so any niggles or injuries from the previous season can be managed and improved during pre-season.
What about the pitch sessions?
In pre-season the pitch sessions are extremely tough. Firstly the overall volume and intensity of training increases, so sessions are longer and harder. We usually have two pitch sessions a day. One will be a lighter skill based, position specific session. The other being a team session which will include a lot of running, contact and match play. They can last anywhere from 50-100 minutes depending on the day. Drills will vary from individual skill based drills, small sided games and 15 vs 15 match play.
Favourite part of pre-season?
Although the training is tough, it can be very enjoyable. It can get quite competitive in the gym which can be very good crack! It also gives us time to do some team building activities such as golf days, squad dinners and training camps away as a team which are also vital in building connections within the squad. The weather is also usually a little bit better which is nice, particularly in Galway!
Worst part of pre-season?
The dreaded fitness test, no matter how many times you’ve done them, they don’t get any nicer. We usually do two during pre-season, one on the first week to get your base score and then repeat towards the end to see your improvement. The second is nearly worse because you are under pressure to beat your previous score. They are never as bad as you fear but the feeling you have waking up on the morning of a fitness test never gets easier! There have been many different tests completed throughout my career – 150 shuttle test, yoyo test, 30-15 interval test and of course the dreaded bronco test.
Goals for the year?
Win a trophy with Connacht. We were close last year, losing the semi-final down in Cape Town. I think this year, with the squad we’ve built, we’re ready to challenge for trophies. Playing in the top tier of European Rugby this season is also extremely exciting and I believe its where Connacht belong.