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Michael Cheika's screams, Gavin Henson's tan and language barriers - the ups and downs of pre-season

Bernard Jackman


Gadgets and gimmicks have their place in pre-season but dogs of war aren’t just made from Bronco tests

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Ross Molony is tackled by James Ryan, Ryan Baird and Devin Toner during a Leinster pre-season training session last month. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ross Molony is tackled by James Ryan, Ryan Baird and Devin Toner during a Leinster pre-season training session last month. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ross Molony is tackled by James Ryan, Ryan Baird and Devin Toner during a Leinster pre-season training session last month. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

“All your ducks are swans in pre-season.” That’s the nugget I got from a rugby coach with 25 years’ experience in the game as I left for Grenoble in 2011. It was something I didn’t understand at the time. I get it now.

As a player my mindset going into 15 pre-seasons as a professional was always the same: survival! I loved playing rugby, and I trained to play whereas I had teammates who I felt played to train. Maybe my memories of pre-season are made worse by being a regular member of what was called “Fat Club.” Or as the French called it “Bad Boys”. That was the group who came back from holidays and missed their body fat targets. Extra-fasted conditioning at 6.30am and no butter on the spuds for a few weeks usually got me back on target, and back into general circulation.


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