The days when Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey would happily duck out of a pre-season orienteering session and dive into a pub for a couple of scoops seem to be long gone.
The tale of Gaillimh and the Claw disappearing from their woodland exercise in search of pints was retold by Donncha Callaghan in his book Joking Apart.
It is a fond reminder of the last vestiges of the amateur game in transition to professionalism; one example among many, no doubt.
In the modern game, with GPS monitoring among a myriad of technologies employed by strength & conditioning (S&C) and medical teams at pro rugby clubs, there is little wriggle room for players returning after a summer break in anything but peak condition, let alone letting oneself go during pre-season.
At least that’s the perception Munster prop Stephen Archer presents as he described his four-week off-season before training got under way in earnest at the start of July. Tighthead Archer is fighting fit and relishing the start of life in the Guinness PRO14, when the season begins in Cork against Treviso, now known as Benetton Rugby, tomorrow evening.
“It’s been a good pre-season,” said Archer, 29. “A lot of us have been doing it for nine or 10 weeks and have put in a lot of work.”
As for the thorny issue, at least for front-row forwards, of “letting yourself go” during the summer break, Archer takes the view that doing so is ultimately counter-productive. The Corkman’s downtime was book-ended by team-mates Billy Holland and Duncan Williams marrying their respective partners either side of an Archer family holiday in Barleycove, West Cork.
“We have four weeks off so we can go away and tip away, so there’s not really that much chance to let yourself go,” he said with a laugh. “You tip away, but you don’t want to overdo anything either, because you don’t want to burn out during the middle of the season.”
Archer accepts there is a balancing act between kicking back for some well-earned rest and leaving yourself with too much fitness work to complete ahead of the new campaign.
“You don’t want to be doing nothing, but you don’t want to come back on day one and chasing your tail after that and, if you come back and you’re out of shape, there is a risk of injury and that’s the most important reason why fellas do a bit while they are off,” he said.
“You miss two or three weeks pre-season and you are chasing your tail, then. Yeah, lads might do extra work, especially the injured lads, who mightn’t have played so much during the season. They really come back and make an effort through doing their own thing with the S&C, so a lot of them came back very fit, whereas the older lads, like myself, are trying to chase them around for the first few weeks.”
After all the hard work behind closed doors, the Munster squad finally has the opportunity to get the league campaign under way at Musgrave Park tomorrow against an Italian side who traditionally present a tough, early-season challenge.
“Home advantage can be a big help, but Treviso will be a physical battle, especially up front and their maul as well, which they’ve based their game around. We’ll be favourites, but Treviso will come out of the blocks firing. They have a big squad with some talented internationals.”
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