PRE-SEASON IS A time of pain for rugby players everywhere, as they push themselves close to their physical limits in order to make long-term gains.
Gordon D’Arcy described Leinster’s schedule as “kind of like Groundhog Day for 10 weeks,” as the players “ just about recover” for the beginning of each new five-day block of training.
Back row Sean O’Brien is among the breed of player who looks forward to this time of the year, however, relishing the opportunity to improve himself as an athlete away from the distraction of matches and injury.
“It is enjoyable definitely, but it is definitely hard work. It mightn’t be enjoyable for all the time you’re doing it, but you do feel good afterwards. I suppose you know you have to push on and set new standards this year and keep pushing each other.
I think every year you do change, every year you get in better shape. I’m getting there now this year, into even better shape than I was in at the start of last season. Every season that passes by, I think you develop a little bit and grow.”
O’Brien lives with Leinster nutritionist and FoodFlicker‘s Daniel Davey, something the Tullow man admits is of great benefit to his recovery and body composition. Nutrition is “a big thing that I’ve gotten very into in the last few years,” points out O’Brien.
The 27-year-old explains that he is a major advocate of staying in shape even before Leinster reconvene for their pre-season: “I think when you get older as well, you need to be minding yourself that little bit more. I came back in in reasonable shape.”
Much of the most demanding conditioning of the summer is already behind Leinster, as they look forward to their first friendly fixture against Northampton in just over a fortnight.
As the province introduce more and more structure-based rugby drills to their training, O’Brien has had the opportunity to assess new coaching additions Leo Cullen [forwards coach] and Marco Caputo [scrum coach], who have stepped in “seamlessly”.
We all know Leo is very smart and was a brilliant leader and captain in the last few years. I never had a doubt that it would be difficult for him to be a forwards coach. I’m really enjoying some of the new things he’s brought in as well.
“We’ve had unit sessions in the last two weeks or so; line-outs, scrums, different things. Marco coming in as well has been very good and very astute. He delivers what he wants very well. I couldn’t be happier with the two lads.”