Welcome to my first blog. I have just played a match away to Montauban in the South of France. Montauban is the closest game to Brive geographically, however this is not the local derby – that is played against Clermont-Ferrand who we played three weeks ago, resulting in a draw. Yesterday’s game against Montauban was the sixth game in the Top 14, so far we are currently in seventh place. We have played against Montpellier, Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Perpignan, Albi and Montauban a competitive start to the season.
It has been the most difficult start to the season I have ever experienced in playing six matches within 29 days. We have played in temperatures as high as 40 degrees in the second game against Toulouse and 37 degrees yesterday against Montauban. There were compulsory drink breaks every 20 minutes. The high temperature is something I have had to get use to. I wasn’t blessed with the most sallow skin so compulsory application of factor 30 plus before the games is a must for me.
With the season starting on 15th August the pre-season was very short. Returning to Brive on the 1st June gave us four weeks of training before our first pre-season friendly. It was a very intense four weeks of training. Integrating power, strength, conditioning and rugby. It was a frustrating pre-season for me. I had an ankle arthroscopy operation on the 19th May to clean out the ankle joint from repeated ankle injuries over the past three seasons. The rehabilitation took longer than I had anticipated. I missed the first two pre-season games against Toulon and Montauban respectively. I played 40 minutes against La Rochelle on 18th August a week before the first Top 14 game.
The game was frantic a hundred miles an hour, like all pre-season games. I was blowing. I didn’t feel match fit. I had spent a lot of time in the gym bulking up, combined with repeated off feet fitness sessions on the bike. I felt great, physically I was stronger and fitter than I had ever been, or so I thought! However there is no substitution for match fitness and I was a week or two behind where I wanted to be before the first competitive match.
I was on the bench for the first game against Montpellier playing 21 minutes in the second half. We won 30-9 getting a bonus point that left us top of the league. A trip to Toulouse was next on the agenda, but this was a different story. I played the whole match. We were 10-0 down after four minutes. Toulouse taught us a lesson on attacking rugby they won 38-0. Everything they did came off and when your 10-0 down after four minutes, its never a good start against the 17 time champions of France. We missed a couple of penalties and the pressure mounted. We were chasing the games.
Toulouse were very clinical. The better team.