Bennett ready to put players through the

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Bennett has revealed that the players will face a testing pre-season programme when they report back for duty on Monday, with the focus on becoming faster and more explosive.

The core group of the squad begin their pre-season training next week, with international representatives returning later in the summer, but every member of the squad will face the same tough regime, which will see see them look to build on the hard work done throughout the 2009/10 campaign, which according to Bennett paid off as the collective efforts led to a squad which was much physically stronger than when he took the reins last summer.

The first day back will see the players undergo a series of tests to assess their general conditioning, with the results then being used to create an individual training plan focussing on their own individual needs. As Bennett explained, the exact content of those training plans won't be known until he's had a chance to assess each player's results.

"At lot depends on how the fitness test results go on their first day back to be honest" he said.

"What we discover in the results will allow us to make sure the players get the right direction and guidance during pre-season rather than simply being worked to death day-in, day-out as can be the case. We're keen to have a different focus in pre-season this year though. Last summer, when we came in for pre-season I didn't think we were strong enough so I put together a plan to rectify that and I think over the course of the year, starting with pre-season, we overcame that.

"We need to maintain those strength levels now, but this pre-season will be about working on becoming more explosive and faster. That's the next step in our development as a rugby squad.

"Everybody had an individual programme given to them. Before they went away we'd set individual goals. Some people had more goals than others, some goals were set on their body weight, or their body fat levels, leg strength, upper body strength or endurance. They were all set goals based on these things at the end of the season and I'd expect them to come back and hit those goals. They are all quite achievable, and if the players come back having achieved them I'd anticipate us starting pre-season off in better nick than we were by the end of pre-season last year which will be a big step forward for us."

The whole squad will benefit from a five week summer leave period, one week longer than previous years, a move which was a conscious decision by Bennett and the rest of the Ospreys coaching team in order to aid their conditioning.

He explained:

"It's such a long season that we felt the players needed a break. It's pretty non-stop all year round now, particularly for our international contingent, so we thought to give them an extended break but with the condition that they were set their goals. With a bit more time away from the work environment they should be fresher mentally as well as physically.

"Initially, those first two or three weeks of pre-season are only focussed on very general stuff, running, weights and physical development, so if the players are doing their things while they are away from here and come back where they should be, then it makes things a lot easier in the long run, for them and for us.

"We've set the goals and they are aware that there will be pretty harsh comebacks on anyone who doesn't reach them."

Pre-season has traditionally been seen as something of a 'make-or-break' time for players, a notion which Bennett is keen to dismiss, saying:

"I don't think it's about breaking people, it's about testing people, having a look at what physical attributes they have and what areas need to be developed the most to become better at the game, and doing what you can to develop them. For someone who may come back very overweight and unfit then yes, it probably would seem like an old fashioned make-or-break pre-season and it would be a very difficult time for them. For players who come back in reasonable shape, and are fit, which I would expect will be the case for our squad, then pre-season can be a time to work on quality things like speed, agility and power work, things that actually help to make players into elite players.

"It's still the hardest time of the year though, without a doubt, and there will be some hard sessions in the mix. This time around we've put together a format where we'll work two days on and one off, that will see us do a day where we do a lot of quality work. They'd have been off the day before so they won't be tired, and we can do all our speed work, our power work, then the next day we will do rugby work and endurance work, the stuff that fatigues us, followed by a day off. We'll follow that cycle, and it should make a big difference, give us a bit of an edge."

For this pre-season, Bennett will be joined by a new face to the Ospreys senior management team, with former Wales full-back Kevin Morgan having been appointed to the role of Strength and Conditioning Coach during the summer, and he is confident that the Grand Slam winner will have a real impact at the region:

"We've welcomed Kevin on board full time which is great news. He's always been interested in strength and conditioning throughout his career and I've worked with him a lot in the past with Wales. I've also spent time doing some post graduate qualifications with him, so I know him very well and his outlook on fitness and rugby, which is very similar to mine. Most importantly, I know that he knows his stuff, is good at what he does and that he'll prove to be an excellent acquisition for the Ospreys."