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‘Nasty Nick’ looks to knock Warriors into shape
FADING out of games in the final 20 minutes has long been Worcester Warriors’ Achilles’ heel and remains one of the key factors in why they have never been able to move away from the foot of the Aviva Premiership.
The two main reasons for this are often cited as a lack of squad depth and poor fitness levels compared to their opponents.
It is no secret that Warriors’ pack tends to struggle in league matches when the replacements are introduced, which in turn leads to a loss of any impetus they may have had, cranks up the pressure and ultimately forces errors, which can be — and so often are — costly.
However, Dean Ryan instantly recognised these failings and has moved quickly to bring them to a halt, with the recruitment of Nick Jonhston as high performance director a big step in that direction.
Johnston is infamous throughout the English game as a hard taskmaster, so much so he is widely known as ‘The Hood’ or ‘Nasty Nick’ by players who have been under his watchful eye.
Professional rugby certainly isn’t a popularity contest and Johnston now plans to implement the practices that have served him well over the years in his new role at Sixways.
He said: “I come with some of my own philosophies in terms of what I’ve done at previous clubs, which have worked well, I believe.
“We have got to change the stimulae a little bit in terms of keeping the players focused and giving them some targets to work towards initially. There are some changes needed.
“In our recent game with Northampton, we played against a team I spent five years with, so I know where they are physically.
“They have got some good people that train those individuals and they are one of the top sides in Europe at the moment, so our performance in many ways was positive because they lived with them. I will influence that a bit because I know where they need to be to be a top four side — and that’s what I have come here for.
“A top four side that has loads of kids playing rugby in Warriors shirts and eventually come here to play for Warriors.”
Although Johnston’s pre-season campaigns have also earned a fearsome reputation, he insists they will benefit Worcester.
He added: “At Saints, we were quite happy with most teams thinking we were doing 12k runs — well they never did a 12k run, 1,200 metres maybe.
“We worked hard and created a culture because our fitness levels were not great when I arrived in 2008.
“I had come from Sale who had been champions and you mark those players against your previous players and they were mid-range. I don’t know exactly where the Worcester guys are yet, but I know they could be better because I can see that and I have played against them.
“Our pre-seasons were tough but people talk about three sessions a day — well, that’s normal value. Northampton players will do three fitness sessions on a Monday, mid-season.
“We don’t overtrain them, we manage them with a support network around them.
“If that reputation is there, good. If they get a shock to the system it will be because it’s structured.
“There’s a lot of detail in the rugby here. There probably needs to be a bit more detail in the support network. Players need to understand why they are doing things because that develops a buy-in.
“It’s about the individualisation of player’s programmes.”
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