“We are not saying that we have found the recipe, because it does not exist”, assures Philippe Gardent

“We are not saying that we have found the recipe, because it does not exist”, assures Philippe Gardent

For the third season in a row, La Rochelle is in the Champions Cup final and will take part in the final phase of the Top 14. Is the physical program similar to previous years?

The plot remains roughly the same. What changes is that more players played more (46 Rochelais played at least one game, editor’s note) because we had more players selected (by national teams, editor’s note), whether in November or in FEBRUARY. More young people were therefore involved, there were things to adjust.

And the team digested the winter duplicates better…

You always have to be humble about that. We really worked hard in February for what we are experiencing now. The guys did the “taf”. In November, we were disappointed with our performance in a lot of matches and that’s also, perhaps, why we’re doing these end of seasons: because we don’t necessarily live up to our expectations. at the start of the year. We are forced to step on the accelerator because we never have a margin. We were aware of that. When you lose at home on December 23 (8-12 against UBB, editor’s note), you are not proud. We try to keep this state of mind: let’s remember, anyway…

“We wrote the project together, the players take charge, the training structures are adequate”

Are you as fit this time of year as you were last season?

I dare to hope so, because we were good, but we know that we need to have a week’s rest during the play-offs (the interview was carried out on April 18, before the formalization of direct qualification for the semi-finals, Ed). She would be indispensable, if only emotionally. Two years ago, we lost the Champions Cup final but we finished in the top two in the Top 14 and that week allowed us to take a step back, to digest and to say to ourselves “oh, there are one more to pick up! “. Physically, you are drained. Even those who don’t play, because we train and we live in a group and all that costs. That’s why we want this week, it’s one of the conclusions we drew on the evening of the defeat in Toulouse last year (in the play-offs, editor’s note). We said to ourselves that if we wanted to play both sides, we had to end up in both.

Last season, the end of matches had been complex in the heart of winter because of the physical work carried out during this period. This time, we didn’t feel it. Is the method integrated?

I hope that’s why. I think we are even more individualized than last season, that the coaches are very good at what we work together. Today more than ever, the physical has no meaning if it does not serve rugby but both feed each other, rugby also serves the physical and the players have understood this well. If they don’t want to do more after practice, they have to do more during practice. Anyone who doesn’t like ‘dumb and mean’ will do the right thing during rugby. Everyone has their own goals and depending on whether or not they do it. The guys agree, yes. And since there is less need for explanations than reminders, everyone is responsible. We wrote the project together, the players take charge of each other, the training structures are adequate, we all manage to work hand in hand.

“I keep all my notes, but I never look at them…”

You have thus established a contract of trust with the players, which has notably enabled Tawera Kerr-Barlow to return home this winter. Is this pact totally integrated, too?

Tawera’s case is very specific, with a family and children in New Zealand. He needs to see them. Ronan (O’Gara, the manager, editor’s note) understands this well. When the decision is made to let him go for a month, we both sit down at a table and define a plan: “You leave on such a date, on such a day you see your children, on such a day you have to work and that’s it.” is non-negotiable. We have so many sessions of speed, bodybuilding, etc. We build it together for players of that level. We wrote it, he validated it and signed up. In the middle, we spoke to adjust according to what he had available. When it happens like that, it’s easier, but it’s planned in advance, it’s not luck. Obviously there would be no deal if there was not this commitment. When we do it with a player and it goes as it should, we do it with a 2nd, then a 3rd, the guys talk to each other and it works. We manage to keep their level, not to hurt them and, when they come back, to take care of them without doing it too much either because they have followed a detailed plan made especially for them.

Can we measure the gain in mental freshness provided by this type of derogation? Is it 30% more?

At least… It’s Ronan’s management, we follow him. There is the team program and the individual program. We are not Leinster, we do not have the ability to decide who plays or not, even if that is what we do every week. We will take stock between the quarter and the half of the Champions Cup to see who played or not, and how many minutes. We try to do our best to preserve those who have played a lot. When you’ve done 25 game sheets and 1,700 minutes, maybe there’s less need for you to play. But if you’re at 10 sheets and 500 minutes, there’s room… The phrase we always repeat is “know your role, play your role”. If you don’t know your role, there’s a problem. It’s up to us to pull the right levers.

Is the balance between most and least used players good?

I think she’s pretty good. I think we have found the balance on what to do with players who play a little less and what to do during the weeks when those who play a little more have to do a little less. We think we’re not far off, but it’s a very fine balance, and we’re not saying we’ve found the recipe, because it doesn’t exist. It may be necessary to manage the same player differently a year later despite the same playing time. Because his personal situation, his state of form and his sores will be different. It’s really individual and up to date. I keep all my notes, but I never look at them… Training is sometimes walking, sometimes jogging, sometimes it’s a video session or weight training. We have training times allocated but we put what we want into it. Our effort as staff is to understand who needs what and to find that balance.

“With Toulouse, we are the two teams in the world that have played the most in the last two years”

You will still have prepared more than 30 games this season. Is there an accumulation of fatigue year after year?

I don’t think it is felt to speak of. Is the guy who’s going to lose his balance going to twist his ankle because he’s played so many games? No, for me, it’s “peanuts”. There are recovery periods. The day you think a guy is burnt is that you went too far and missed an episode. I don’t feel this accumulation nor the energy of the guys going down. On the contrary… we played 37 games two years ago, 35 last year. With Toulouse, we are the two teams in the world that have played the most in the last two years and I find that they don’t feel this type of fatigue either. The more you do, the more you can do. Ronan often says, “you don’t know your limits”.

Is there a program to repel them?

I have in mind this sentence from Eddie Jones who says “a cyclist, when he finishes a 180 km race, he will ride on a home-trainer for an hour and a half to recover”. We sometimes take the elevator to go up a floor rather than the stairs to eat, because we’re too tired. But the limit is the one we want to agree to. During long seasons, you have to understand that everyone can be involved, that we can play 25 or 27 games. We have to stop with the noise that says we play too much, more than other nations. Because we live with that and maybe if France is good today, it is because it is what it is. I also think that we play too much, but we deal with it and find solutions. It’s a bit like the story of someone who has the vision that we’re going to go to the Moon in ten years. He doesn’t know how yet, but he knows we’ll get there. We do the same, we don’t know how we are going to play 37 games, but we are going to do it.

Is there a memory of bodies?

Yes. There is a memory of everything. The smell, the visual, the auditory, the body, everything is remembered, the good and the less good. When you go for a difficult area but you’ve already done it once or twice, you know how to do it. That’s why you also have to do it in training.

Do you grant additional rest days to those provided for in the players’ employment contracts?

It is individual, but collective charges can also change. And we decide to voluntarily give days outside the structure, because you can be in the structure but be at rest. Caring is work and rest. We can let go of the player because he needs it and so do we. The staff must make good decisions, give good advice, so we need to have our battery recharged. However, we do not plug into the outlet. Our catch is our family, it’s doing something else, like them. You have to live together but being far from each other makes you want to get together. It’s always a matter of balance…

The training sequences are planned and timed.

The training sequences are planned and timed.


Programmed intensities

For a long time, the big guys from La Rochelle earned the Stade the label of a team unable to keep up with the Anglo-Saxon formations. Now his mobility is praised. “It was prejudice, but I’m not sure we have a VMA either. [vitesse maximale aérobie, NDLR] higher than that of Stade Toulousain, reacts Romain Carmignani. But the guys train every day with 5 physical trainers, they are in good shape. Our thinking is that they should be on important match cycles. »
To keep up the pace in matches with high playing times, the training sessions are sequenced, with timed phases. “Everything is planned beforehand. There are some that exceed three minutes, others that are very short, we have average sequencing per game and behind, the organization revolves around that, details the forwards coach. We try to reach three minutes, sometimes 40 seconds, and we try to vary the recovery times. This morning [jeudi 4 mai, NDLR], we had 18 sequences, with planned recovery and work times, with start of actions on launches or out of order. »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *