How did you perceive this first day of work?
It’s back to school. It’s good to see the smiles and start a new adventure as far as I’m concerned. It’s interesting to see different things, with great facilities here. We will try to set up a system that players like and build a crescendo. We are lucky to have a pretty long preseason, we will do everything to be well structured.
The ball seems to be integrated into the preparation, is that part of your method?
I don’t know how to do it any other way. In rugby there is wrestling and running, and we will work on that with the ball. And we will find solutions to increase the intensity at each point in order to be prepared for the preparation matches.
It is said that players work more with the ball while they have the impression of doing less …
It depends. With the ball we can’t do everything either, but now we have tools that allow us to measure everything. Some work harder, others less. It is up to us to balance. Our workouts are cut live, you can follow the meters traveled in real time, the intensity of the races. We thus have the possibility of readjusting ourselves, as a team and as an individual.
It resumes with strong heat. Is it beneficial in preparation?
We work on power and speed in the morning when it’s a little cooler and end up with high intensity sessions in the sun, because that’s likely to happen in competition. Heat also has good effects on endurance and endurance. All this has been discussed with the doctor. We have organized ourselves so that the players can recover properly, with not too long workouts while ensuring their rehydration.
The last two years have been disrupted by Covid, with Toulon having a block of about twenty games to manage at the end of last season. Does it change the way you approach preparation?
It’s hard to anticipate. The question that arose was whether it was necessary to recover a little more after the final sprint experienced by Toulon. That’s why we gave players five weeks off instead of the mandatory four. The off-season program has also been lightened. We also knew we would have seven weeks of preparation behind us. We have to take advantage of that.
From a distance, the players seem sharp …
We did the test this morning (Wednesday), I still don’t have all the data in my head, but overall I haven’t had any bad surprises. Sounds right. If we work well over the next seven weeks, we have a chance to be prepared.
Finally, what makes a preparation successful?
You have to see it as a match: it’s hard. We can enjoy the difficulty. You have to touch it with your finger during the preparation. Some days, it won’t be easy, they don’t laugh at the effort, but that’s why we put the ball, the game and the good humor. It is also in these moments that they can create something between them. This is not easily done. Preparation is not just physical, it is a set of factors, which is also why we are numerous in the workforce.
It will also go through the competition, I’m at 18 seasons, in the Top 14 there are always tough times. This is where we build ourselves.
At what time of season should a prep layer be applied?
It will depend on the schedule. Generally when we prepare for Europe we change the training a bit. At the beginning of the season we can reduce the sailing surface a bit because we are getting out of preparation. The winter period is a bit more complex to manage with the holidays. Then there are the internationals who are leaving for the Six Nations, we have to work well with the others, hoping to overcome the injuries, and then the end of the season to manage, but for that, it will all depend on our results.
You are going to do an internship in Tignes. What can working at height do for you?
It is important because it will make training difficult, but it is difficult to talk about a real physiological adaptation in such a short period of time, as we will only be there for six days. We will take the freshness, we will take advantage of the altitude but we will not speak of a hypoxia plan.
A word about your arrival in Toulon. How did this happen?
Pierre and Franck contacted me. They didn’t know each other too well, so maybe it was easier to have a coach they’d worked with. I liked the project that the president presented, it’s exciting. Still, I had a year left on my contract at Lyon, I thank the club for letting me come. I am lucky to be part of a great project in Toulon, with a very good team that did a very good job last year.
You have worked with Franck Azéma and Pierre Mignoni, do you find similarities between the two?
I’m used to working with Franck, we worked together for eleven years, and I had Pierre as a player and then as a coach. We all know each other well. They have a pretty similar operation, it’s pretty easy to work with them. I have no doubt they will speak the same language, the same rugby.