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Dealing with disrupted preparations a tough balancing act

Returning to battle ... the Super 15 season resumes this weekend.

Returning to battle ... the Super 15 season resumes this weekend. Photo: Getty Images

The Super Rugby competition returns after its first mid-season hibernation and its impact remains to be seen.

It’s interesting to note the different approaches teams have taken: some do nothing in terms of games, others compete in internal trials and the rest feature in full games in an effort to replicate the intensity of the competition proper.

Who is right? We will probably never know, but it’s a period we have put a lot of time and thought into.

For the Reds, we played an exhibition match against the Hurricanes, a match that will be remembered more for the season-ending injury to their halfback TJ Perenara. While this is an unfortunate consequence, I think Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett and I were looking for the same outcome from the match – the replication of Super Rugby-level intensity.

The scoreline was not flattering for the Reds but every knock, tackle and bump was important to keep the minds of players tuned into that level of rugby because it will be instantly required this weekend.

So what exactly are the challenges for the teams playing this week? 

For me, it’s primarily about assimilation and making sure everyone is on the same page when they run out in Melbourne tomorrow night.  The reality is we only have a limited amount of time to prepare and the short preparation, along with travel, leaves us with only two proper sessions together and also a short captain’s run.

We can’t do much about this as our Wallabies only returned on Sunday and the Australian under-20s from South Africa that night.   

With this in mind, assimilation is the most important thing we have control over.

What does this involve?  Primarily, finding a balance between the fatigue, frustration, elation and stress levels of the playing group. Every player returning has a different story.

We have Will Genia coming from a successful man-of-the-series effort against Wales to a James Slipper who has been in Wallabies camp for a month without a game. We also have Liam Gill, who played the most minutes in the Australian under-20s playing halfway around the world. Further to this, Quade Cooper was at Ballymore in rehabilitation for the past five weeks. It’s a mixed bag, so as a coach, the worst thing you can do is add to their stress levels.

Under these circumstances, tailor-made training preparations are important for individuals.

That will ensure players are prepared physically, but you can also minimise their mental stress by ensuring the cerebral part of our team preparation is done in advance. We have worked hard on the game plan with the players who were here in previous weeks and it now requires the players coming back to accept and trust its credibility.

For this to occur, you must pitch the game plan in pragmatic terms and understand what the players will be able to digest and replicate under pressure in such a short space of time.

If you transfer this across the park, there is a lot of room for error and stress.  As we prepare this week, it is important we get the level of knowledge right, without overdoing it.

Generally, good players are good for a reason so a simple framework is all that is needed to get them going again.

Once you have everyone up to speed on the knowledge component, we hit the training paddock. 

The greatest thing a coach can do is work out what needs to be left out of a training session. 

This is particularly difficult as you automatically feel that if you don’t run through certain elements, then it won’t happen in a game.

This is generally true and therefore you need to be brutally pragmatic and seize upon the areas you feel will have the biggest influence on the game. 

But importantly, there has to be fun. Nothing brings the camaraderie back faster than fun. 

If you have a good group of guys then the natural competitive juices begin to flow quickly and the banter among the squad returns.  With this, familiarity also returns and so does a high level of positivity.

When you are deciding what needs to be left out, you don’t leave out the fun – the players love it.

Trust is also a key ingredient and when you are working out the dynamics of training and team selection, you need to have faith that the players haven’t forgotten how to play. 

If you have a strong ‘base’ game then this is your crutch. It gets you through the tough times in matches and during weeks where there is a lot of uncertainty. 

If you get this bit sorted and the players are ready to play, it comes down to one final element.  This is attitude.

Attitude in sport and the value of a seven-day preparation was on show in the recent All Blacks v Ireland Test series. 

For Ireland to lose by 40 points, be a minute away from victory seven days later, and then get toppled by 60 a week after that shows that if the top two inches aren’t right then the rest doesn’t matter.

Making sure your players have a positive head space is about the best thing you can coach at this point of the season – hopefully we have got ours right as we can’t afford a bad day at the office.

3 comments so far

  • It's good to read the thoughts of a coach who appears both caring of his charges and more importantly, articulate. I'm sure this helps with getting the required information to the players. Robbie, take note!

    Commenter
    Cattledog
    Location
    Gold Coast
    Date and time
    June 28, 2012, 11:56AM
    • Time to unleash the Red beast Link. Get to the finals and the other teams will be freaking. Go Reds you good things !

      Commenter
      johnny-boy
      Date and time
      June 28, 2012, 1:40PM
      • It was a great north v south test series but no excuses for tiredness even after 3 Tests in a row.

        Lets face it, the Allblacks played well last week.

        Commenter
        mikes world
        Date and time
        June 29, 2012, 12:25AM

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        BRU 0vs HUR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
        Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
        CHT 0vs Jagu 0 04:00FSS
        Sunw 0vs LIO 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
        CRU 0vs CHF 0 17:35AMI
        WAR 0vs RED 0 19:40AS
        FOR 0vs REB 0 21:50nib Stadium
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        King 0vs SHA 0 00:00NMBS
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        Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CRU 0vs BLU 0 17:35AMI
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        Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 0vs LIO 0 15:15FMG Stadium Waikato
        HIG 0vs HUR 0 17:35FBS
        RED 0vs FOR 0 19:40SS
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        BUL 0vs REB 0 00:00Loftu
        CHT 0vs STO 0 02:05FSS
        SHA 0vs Jagu 0 04:10GpKP
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        Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
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        FOR 0vs BRU 0 22:05nib Stadium
        Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
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        REB 0vs RED 0 19:40AAMI
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        King 0vs CHF 0 00:00NMBS
        STO 0vs SHA 0 02:05DHL Newlands
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        Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
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        Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BUL 0vs SHA 0 04:00Loftu
        Sunw 0vs REB 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
        CRU 0vs King 0 17:35AMI
        RED 0vs BLU 0 19:40SS
        Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
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        STO 0vs BRU 0 04:10DHL Newlands
        Jagu 0vs CHF 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
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        Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHF 0vs FOR 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
        REB 0vs HIG 0 19:40AAMI
        Sunw 0vs BUL 0 21:50Singapore National Stadium
        Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CHT 0vs BRU 0 00:00FSS
        SHA 0vs CRU 0 02:05GpKP
        Jagu 0vs STO 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
        HIG 0vs FOR 0 17:35FBS
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        LIO 0vs CRU 0 04:00Emirates Airlines Park
        BLU 0vs Jagu 0 17:35QBE Stadium
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        FOR 0vs CRU 0 21:00nib Stadium
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        STO 0vs Sunw 0 03:00DHL Newlands
        HUR 0vs Jagu 0 17:35WS
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        REB 0vs HUR 0 19:40AAMI
        Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
        CHT 0vs Sunw 0 03:00FSS
        BLU 0vs SHA 0 17:35EP
        WAR 0vs BRU 0 19:40AS
        Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        BUL 0vs RED 0 01:05Loftu
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        Round 9
        Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
        HIG 0vs SHA 0 17:35FBS
        REB 0vs CHT 0 19:40AAMI
        Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
        Sunw 0vs Jagu 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
        HUR 0vs CHF 0 17:35WS
        FOR 0vs WAR 0 19:40nib Stadium
        STO 0vs RED 0 23:00DHL Newlands
        Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        King 0vs LIO 0 01:05NMBS
        BRU 0vs CRU 0 16:05GIO Stadium
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        CHF 0vs SHA 0 17:35Yarro
        FOR 0vs BUL 0 21:05nib Stadium
        Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
        HIG 0vs BRU 0 15:15Rugby Park
        BLU 0vs REB 0 17:35EP
        RED 0vs CHT 0 19:40SS
        Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        LIO 0vs HUR 0 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
        STO 0vs WAR 0 03:10DHL Newlands
        Jagu 0vs King 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Round 11
        Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
        CRU 0vs RED 0 17:35AMI
        BRU 0vs BUL 0 19:40GIO Stadium
        Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
        Sunw 0vs FOR 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
        CHF 0vs HIG 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
        WAR 0vs CHT 0 19:40AS
        SHA 0vs HUR 0 23:00GpKP
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        Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
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        REB 0vs BRU 0 19:40AAMI
        Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
        HUR 0vs RED 0 17:35WS
        WAR 0vs BUL 0 19:40AS
        Sunw 0vs STO 0 21:45Singapore National Stadium
        Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
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        LIO 0vs BLU 0 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
        Jagu 0vs SHA 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
        CRU 0vs WAR 0 17:35AMI
        Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
        RED 0vs Sunw 0 15:05SS
        CHF 0vs REB 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
        FOR 0vs BLU 0 19:40nib Stadium
        LIO 0vs Jagu 0 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
        Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        SHA 0vs King 0 01:05GpKP
        BUL 0vs STO 0 03:10Loftu
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        Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
        HUR 0vs HIG 0 17:35WS
        WAR 0vs CHF 0 19:40AS
        Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
        King 0vs Jagu 0 03:00NMBS
        BLU 0vs CRU 0 17:35EP
        BRU 0vs Sunw 0 19:40GIO Stadium
        STO 0vs CHT 0 23:00DHL Newlands
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        BUL 0vs LIO 0 01:05Loftu
        REB 0vs FOR 0 16:05AAMI
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        BRU 0vs RED 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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        HUR 0vs BLU 0 17:35WS
        REB 0vs STO 0 19:40AAMI
        CHT 0vs FOR 0 23:00FSS
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        Jagu 0vs BUL 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        BLU 0vs BRU 0 17:35EP
        RED 0vs CHF 0 19:40SS
        Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        LIO 0vs King 0 03:00Emirates Airlines Park
        CRU 0vs REB 0 17:35AMI
        WAR 0vs HUR 0 19:40AS
        FOR 0vs STO 0 21:45nib Stadium
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        BUL 0vs Sunw 0 01:05Loftu
        SHA 0vs CHT 0 03:10GpKP
        Jagu 0vs HIG 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
        BLU 0vs WAR 0 17:35EP
        RED 0vs REB 0 19:40SS
        Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
        SHA 0vs Sunw 0 03:00GpKP
        CRU 0vs HUR 0 15:15AMI
        HIG 0vs CHF 0 17:35FBS
        BRU 0vs FOR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
        Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        STO 0vs King 0 01:05DHL Newlands
        CHT 0vs BUL 0 03:10FSS
        Jagu 0vs LIO 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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        Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
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        TBC 0vs TBC 0 09:00
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