GLASGOW Warriors will reveal the full make-up of their squad for season 2015-16 when they release the names of their final few new signings at some point next week.
“From a recruitment point of view we are pretty much sorted, there are a couple still to be announced but we are very comfortable with the squad we have and delighted with what we have been able to put together,” said head coach Gregor Townsend.
“You’ve got to work them hard and that’s them from July to the end of the season”Gregor Townsend
“I think our squad’s going to be 55 strong, which is 11 more than last year. But during the World Cup it could be down to 32 or 33, so we know there are potential risks there. If we do pick up injuries we might have to look at club players coming in to cover that, but I think we should be fine over that period,” he added.
The Warriors squad reconvened for training on Wednesday, and though his players were given 11 days off after that momentous night in Belfast, when they dismantled Munster to lift the Guinness Pro12 trophy for the first time – the coach looked slightly sheepish when asked if he had managed to take a break from planning for next season.
“Kind of,” he shrugged. “I went and did Sky TV [coverage of the French Top 14 semi-final between Clermont and Toulouse] last Sunday.”
It must have been a bit of a busman’s holiday, but Townsend wouldn’t have it any other way. When you are on a roll you just want to keep going – and he and his band of merry Warriors are riding on the crest of a wave.
They finished the 2014-15 campaign in sensational style by bouncing back from a dispiriting defeat away to the Ospreys at the start of May with a rollicking 32-10 victory over [an admittedly understrength] Ulster the following week, which ensured they finished the regular season top of the league table.
That lined them up to play a full-strength Ulster at home in the play-off semi-finals. The Scotstoun men had to battle for victory, before a late try by DTH van der Merwe and a touchline conversion by Finn Russell saw them home.
Then, in the Grand Final against Munster in Belfast, the Warriors raced into a commanding lead through tries by Rob Harley, Van der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos during a mind-blowing first half, before Russell sealed the victory a with his team’s fourth touchdown.
The former Scotland and Lions playmaker is in no doubt that the thought and effort which went into last summer’s pre-season programme underpinned everything his team has achieved since then.
“Everyone talks about building your base in pre-season and it will see you throughout the season, which is true because you do most of the conditioning work then.
“But there is an element of everybody doing the same thing, which is give guys four or five weeks’ time off at the end of the last season and when they come back in you find that they’ve de-trained, so you’ve got to work them hard, and that’s them from July all the way through to the end of the season” he explained.
“We do things differently so that we have a ten-day break for everyone, then another three weeks’ time off in July, and the guys come back fitter and stronger when given their holiday later.”
“What we found last year was that they didn’t get much of a holiday but they were keen to train and they saw their body shapes changing for the better – so when they got the holiday they didn’t want to lose that and they kept topping it up. We fitness tested two or three players at the end of the first block, then they went for the holiday and when they came back they were getting better results.
“We’ll see if any other team does it after us. But we certainly think it works.”
Townsend admits that this different way of doing things was to a large extent a product of necessity, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last summer depriving them of access to most of the facilities they needed from mid-July through to early August – but he was impressed enough by the outcomes of this fragmented summer regime to have designed a similar plan for this pre-season.
In truth, it is predominantly his fringe players he is working with at the moment – with 22 key players enjoying a final few days of rest and recuperation before checking into the Scotland World Cup training camp this coming Monday morning.
The Warriors could also be without Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Leone Nakarawa during the World Cup window, with both players recently named in Fiji’s training squad; while new signings Simone Favaro and Greg Peterson will be hopeful of making the Italian and USA Eagles squads respectively.
Townsend knows this will create challenges in his quest to get the coming season off to a flying start, but he insists he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s great because they will come back better players after working on the bigger stage and doing all that training. If they don’t make the final squad they will still get game time in the summer Tests, which will be great as it is a higher level than we will be playing at.
“It is up to us as coaches to integrate them and get them up to speed on what we are looking to do when they come back,” he said.