Mike Anthony has been impressed with the pre-season work of Will James
GLOUCESTER'S fitness and conditioning expert Mike Anthony is full of praise for the efforts made by Dean Ryan's squad in the last few weeks and believes they could be in the best shape ever.
The squad will jet off to Portugal later this month for a training camp but work is already well underway ahead of the new Guinness Premiership season.
While Gloucester's internationals have not yet returned to pre-season, the majority of the squad have been put through their paces at Hartpury College by the former All Blacks fitness coach.
"When I arrived at the club three years ago I think it was a bit of a fright to the players as to what I expected of them, but now we are getting these guys into outstanding shape," Anthony told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"There is no way I can fault the work ethic - we are doing three sessions a day and have concentrated on three main areas - strength, anaerobic and speed.
"We have also put some weight on people like James Forrester and some of our backs because if you take Mike Tindall out of our three-quarter line, we are quite small in that area.
"But we have also combined that with agility work because we don't want them to lose their speed. In terms of where we were this time last season, we are well ahead and that is really pleasing."
On Monday, the squad were fitness tested and they also compete in regular strong man competitions that involve tyre flipping, wrestling and boxing.
Later in July the squad travel to Portugal for what Anthony describes as 'an intensive training camp.'
"I have already seen the facility and it's fantastic," he said. "It will give us a much needed change of scenery, we will eat together and work together and also have some down-time together.
"There will be a chance for them to get on the beach and play some speed golf. But as a group we are definitely further ahead than this time last year and the new guys have shown a great desire to work exceptionally hard.
"Will James has shown a fantastic attitude, he is strong and a great athlete - I have been really impressed - but the effort from everyone has been outstanding."
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.