The game of rugby is changing before our eyes and, 16 years on from Bath Rugby's famous Heineken Cup win against Brive, the game is almost unrecognisable.
In 1998, rugby was still coming to terms with professionalism and how to manage itself. Now, clubs operate as businesses, with rugby as their primary commodity.
Comparing the training regimes of two players who ply their trade in the same position gives some interesting insights into how things have changed.
Bath legend Nigel "Ollie" Redman made 350 appearances for Bath, including 10 RFU Senior Cup Final wins, six League titles and, of course, the Heineken Cup victory in 1998. Most of Ollie's career was played out during the amateur years, when Bath used to train just twice a week – on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Mondays consisted of the more physically demanding exercises, whilst Wednesdays were reserved for the more technical side of things. Ollie rarely missed a session, and would do at least one extra session a week, slotting it in alongside his work as a qualified electrician. There were even times when he would stand upright, tense his back and stomach and have a trainer smash a plank of wood across his bear-like frame, with the aim being to get his body used to the hits it would take on the rugby field!
These days, if you were to suggest such a technique to the likes of Dave Attwood, he'd more than likely laugh at you!
The training regime of the Bath squad is closely monitored by our Strength and Conditioning and Medical teams, with the perfect balance between training and player welfare at the very top of their list of priorities.
In an ordinary week, Dave will spend at least three mornings lifting weights, with the sessions split between upper and lower body, depending on what the rugby session is that day. For each session, he will be monitored and coached on a one-on-one basis.
There are three main days of rugby a week, with a double pitch session – as well as a weights session beforehand – on Tuesdays. These will focus on the specific "unit" training – scrums and lineouts for the forwards, kicking and play-running for the backs – as well as whole team sessions to run specific plays and tactics through for that weekend's game.
In amongst all this is physio and massage appointments, pilates, meetings, and review sessions. In all, these guys do a huge amount of classroom-based homework and analysis, both of the opposition and themselves.
You'll also find the match squad doing some active recovery the day after a game, usually in a pool, to help repair aching muscles and joints as quickly as possible so they are in the best possible shape to get back into action the following Monday. All in all, it's a far cry from the days of planks of wood and a post-training pint!
One day, perhaps even the methods used by Attwood and co. will seem outdated but, for now, Bath Rugby lead the way in the preparation of their players, and long may that continue.
Make sure you join our Bath Rugby Legends this Sunday at the Rec to cheer on the new generation against Brive in the Amlin Challenge Cup Quarter-Final. Tickets are available now online, on 0844 448 1865 and in person at the Ticket Office on Pulteney Bridge.