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."
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Gloucester may be coming off their best win of the season, the 38-16 victory over Wasps last weekend, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys admits that Sunday's trip to Saracens is an even tougher test.
After a series of contract announcements last week, hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest Gloucester Rugby player to commit to a new contract at the club and told GRTV how much he enjoys playing in the Cherry and White of Gloucester.
A try scorer in the 36-18 Aviva Premiership win over Wasps at Kingsholm on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted that Gloucester would enjoy the moment but can't get too carried away. The team got what they deserved but the winger wants these performances to be more frequent.
England Head Coach Eddie Jones has made two changes to his side to play Australia in Saturday's final match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm, live on Sky Sports 2). Jonny May lines up on the left wing.