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'Every day you know you're going to be in pain' -- Jennings happy to see the back of pre-season

We asked the flanker about the difficulties of training hard as you get older and got a predictable response.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

OKAY, SO WE knew it was a stupid question, but it slipped out anyway.

It wasn’t meant to rub salt in the wound and remind Shane Jennings of his own mortality, but after the big-name retirements at the end of last season the 33-year-old flanker moved up into the province’s top five oldest players.

So, pre-season gets harder as you get older, yeah?

Fortunately, the microphone was on and there were witnesses around…

“Of course it is!” said the openside spotting that the pot was calling out the kettle.

“You’re getting older. You run up 25 steps and see how it is. The older you get the harder it is, it’s as simple as that.”

It’s true, we’re all getting on a bit now; the stiffness is spreading, posture is suffering from elongated periods at the desk and one of the hips has been muttering hints about about making that rotating hand signal to call for a sub.

A pre-season would probably do everyone the world of good, but Jennings isn’t exactly selling it well. For him, today’s Pro12 opener away to Glasgow Warriors will be heaven-sent, a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel down in Leinster’s UCD gym.

“It’s tough. it’s a bit of a drag: Every day you come in and you know you’re going to be in pain.

“There’s a lot of dark places to get through at times, but it’s great, you’re fit and healthy and exercising out in the fresh air in the summer, so it’s a massive positive.

“You get your weekends off and you’re finished the majority of days pretty early and for rugby players that is something quite different.”

‘Pretty rubbish’

The 33-year-old already had the relief of 60 minutes of action in last week’s friendly against Ulster. And he hopes the defeat can still be turned into a positive in hindsight as a way to flush errors and rust out of the system.

“[First game back] you’re usually pretty rubbish and I was, but you get a few cobwebs out of the system. And we tried to implement some of the strategies that we’ve been coached over the last number of weeks and I think there’s a good sense of excitement.

“It’s tough, and everybody’s glad to see the back of it. There’s only so much you can do in pre-season. It’s now when there’s points on the line that we’ll really see lads stepping up.”

“The first is always the toughest, it’s very hard to replicate game situations. No matter how much rowing and cycling you do, it’s hard to replicate that contact, nerves and adrenaline.”

In a curious sense of timing, a guttural roar of a crowd of young rugby players went up from the gym as Jennings spoke. The wolves at the door trying to push the veteran aside?

Maybe, but he didn’t flinch as he finished another chapter of pre-season chat.

“It’s good to have young lads on your heels and passing you out. But you take a bit of pride in it and you don’t want that to happen.

“It’s tough, but it’s all for the benefit of the team. If you’re hurting, it’s coming from a good place. That’s what you want. everybody’s driving each other on really well.”

The hard part’s over for the flanker, but now the work begins.

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Sean Farrell

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