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."
Henry Purdy, a first half replacement for Charlie Sharples, was amongst the try scorers in the 64-19 victory over Aviron Bayonnais on Saturday evening and told GRTV that it was a professional performance, one the team are happy with.
Gloucester's win in Treviso last week means that they need a bonus point win against Bayonne on Saturday evening to secure a home quarter-final (kick off 8pm), but Tim Taylor wants the team to focus on the performance first and foremost.
Billy Burns and Man of the Match Richard Hibbard spoke to GRTV after the 41-0 win in Treviso, on a day when preparations weren't ideal. They felt the team's attitude was key and also praised the travelling support.
Following the conclusion of the Stade Francais vs Harlequins game today, round six is complete and the quarter-finalists in the European Rugby Challenge Cup are now known with Gloucester set to welcome the Cardiff Blues to Kingsholm.
Knowing a bonus point win would secure a home quarter-final, Gloucester completed their European mission in some style on Saturday evening, sweeping aside a spirited but outgunned Aviron Bayonnais scoring 10 tries on their way to a 64-19 victory.