We need to talk about…RWC hangovers

The World Cup had a disproportionate impact on Glasgow Warriors with 27 players missing out on preseason training with the club and 22 absent for early season games. Even now, months after the tournament ended, its effects can still be seen in the way the team are playing and the results they are achieving.

Players / combinations

The Warriors have used 53 players this season, including no less than 17 who’ve made their first ever appearance for Glasgow. There’s been precious little in the way of continuity, not just in terms of matchday squads, but even in the players available for the coaches to work with week to week. In fact between international duties and significant injuries there are probably only a dozen players from the full time squad who have been available for the whole of preseason and the season so far. Players who returned after the RWC have required rest and holiday periods and these have been staggered over a number of weeks. This has not been a recipe for successfully blending this season’s iteration of the Warriors together to target progress in Europe and an effective title defence.

Preparation

The players who went to the RWC (and to a lesser extent those who were in extended squads before the tournament) prepared in order to peak in October. The conditioning and skills work undertaken to make that possible would have been very different from the work they would have done during a normal club preseason. The issue for the conditioning coaches has been how to adapt the work these players are doing to allow them to get back to their ‘normal’ position at this time of the season while there are games being played week in week out.

Mental focus

Those who were involved in the World Cup would have found themselves in a daily routine where the tournament was almost the total focus of their day. Media attention and scrutiny followed the team wherever they went. The players were in a closeted environment in hotels or at training complexes and then playing in large, sold-out stadia with the attention of the rugby playing and supporting world on them. There’s bound to be a bit of a culture shock moving back into their usual day-to-day surroundings and, as far as Scotstoun has come, it’s not quite going to get the adrenaline going the way running out at a packed Twickenham or St. James’ Park would

Second season syndrome

With last season’s successes coming on the back of improvement every year for since 2010/11, Gregor Townsend would have been keen to get the players in to confront the potential for a feeling of ‘well we’ve done it – what now?’ or sitting back on those collective laurels. There would have been analysis of where the club goes from here and setting the goals that would drive the team forward and prevent them from plateauing or even slipping backwards in the standards set. The disjointed nature of the summer and early part of the 2015/16 have made that extremely difficult and it’s yet another area the coaches, staff and players will be dealing with on the fly, having to adapt to goalposts that are constantly shifting rather than entering the season fully prepared and with a laser-like focus.

These are professional players and they’ve shown themselves to be capable of dealing with all kinds of adversity over recent years. However the simple fact is that they are human. All the factors mentioned above may only have a small effect on each player but they are cumulative and when they are affecting so many in the squad there will be an impact. Even marginal drop offs in performance have been and will continue to be punished at the level the Warriors are expecting to play at now. Saturday’s win over Racing showed hints of what the team are capable of but what is needed now is a consistent run of form to get the season back on track.

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