Saints already getting into their pre-season stride

Saints finished their season with a victory against Stade Fran�ais on May 26 (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Saints finished their season with a victory against Stade Fran�ais on May 26 (picture: Sharon Lucey)

The season may only have finished a month ago, but Franklin’s Gardens is already starting to buzz with the sound of players’ boots again.

Some members of the squad were back on the paddock on Monday as preparations for the start of the 2017/18 season started in earnest.

Every professional player is given five weeks off following the conclusion of the previous campaign.

But with some men having not featured in the dramatic Champions Cup play-off victory against Stade Français at the Gardens on May 26, they are now ready to go again.

Pre-season can be a strange time at a rugby club as players filter back in sporadically, depending on their summer commitments.

The likes of Dylan Hartley and Harry Mallinder will now be on holiday, having been on England’s tour of Argentina.

And as for Courtney Lawes and George North, their break will still seem a long way away as they continue to strut their stuff for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.

Lawes and North will not be done with the Lions until the end of the third and final Test, which takes place in Auckland on July 8.

And that means they will both then take their five weeks off, meaning they won’t return to Saints until things really start to ramp up in August.

Saints will start their pre-season campaign with a home fixture against the Dragons, and neither Lawes or North will feature in that match.

But they will look to get some club game time before the new Aviva Premiership season starts in September.

As for the rest of the Saints squad, they will have a significant head-start in their pre-season preparations.

“Every professional player signed up in the Premiership has five weeks off so those players who played against Stade Francais in the last game will be starting next week,” explained experienced lock Christian Day, who is now beginning his testimonial season.

“The guys who didn’t play in that game came in a week earlier and there have been some guys out there training this week.”

However, the reality of modern-day rugby is that no player completely switches off during their break from action.

Pre-season training can be so gruelling that every member of the squad knows they must stay in shape for when they return to the paddock.

There is no going easy, with strength and conditioning staff getting stuck in to ensure players get into their stride as quickly as possible.

“Professional rugby is now much more than turn up on the first day and fingers crossed,” Day said.

“We’re all in our pre pre-season and we’re working on the programmes that the club sets us so we’re ready to go when we do arrive.

“We want to start training and really ramping up the intensity towards the start of the season, which isn’t that far away.

“The internationals are a different animal. They don’t finish until the start of July and they will get their rest and come back and get into a tailored programme to step up for the start of September.”

The new season may still seem some time away, but for the players it comes round quickly.

And the Saints squad will be desperate to get up to speed as soon as possible as they look to put things right after finishing seventh in the Aviva Premiership last time round.

A big pre-season awaits at the Gardens, but will certainly be nothing new for the men involved.