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The boys from the Bahrain Rugby Football Club 1st XV Squad have been gearing up for their season’s first official game next month.
They are being aided by increased support from platinum sponsor Altrad, founded by Mohed Altrad, the Syrian-born French billionaire businessman and rugby fanatic who is chairman of Montpellier Hérault Rugby. The team hopes to live up to and beyond the high standards set by Louie Tonkin with the women driving the team and taking more centre stage in the athletes’ training.
As the GulfWeekly has reported previously, Coach Tonkin departed this summer after leading the boys to two consecutive West Asia Cup championships and former team captains Adam Wallace and Lindsey Gibson took on the hefty coaching mantle.
In a deviation from the traditional all-in-one coach concept, the squad, with sponsorship from DHL, BMMI and In Touch, has also brought on a conditioning coach, Alana McConalogue who has been working with the team’s head of medical Dr Amy Bowzaylo to tailor each player’s training regimen to their unique physical condition.
Bowzaylo, a competitive gymnast growing up, was inspired by a chiropractor who was the only one able to relieve her pain after a particularly nasty injury to her neck. After getting her Doctorate of Chiropractic, she has worked with athletes like Barry Bonds in Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL) before relocating to the Middle East.
She has been working with rugby athletes for the last 23 years. She said: “Each pack within the team has its own fitness regime. The front pack, the first eight guys that you see come together in a scrum are the bigger guys who train their slow twitch fibres for more strength, and usually typically less cardio fitness. And then the middle pack are the ones who train their fast twitch fibres for sprinting and running with more cardio while still focusing on strength. And then the back row they train primarily for agility and speed.”
Aiding in this training during practice is McConalogue, who works with the team as a whole on some warm-ups and individually with injured players to ensure they stay fit without stressing the affected areas. She adds: “Amy and her team will update us on each player’s status before practice. For example, one player was injured towards the end of last season and is still unable to run without considerable pain. So we’ve been working on his conditioning. But we bring out the rowing and cycling machine to the side-lines so he has a low-impact way of warming up and is still part of the practice and strategy.”
More than the injuries, the ladies also have to adjust to each player’s day job. Coach Wallace, for example, has a fairly sedentary desk job. Bowzaylo said: “Adam has a challenging role, because he sits during his day job and then he flies around a lot. And flying dehydrates you. It’s stressful because your immune system gets bombarded each time you get in a plane and you get germs from all over the place. And travelling across time zones has a tendency to stress out your systems. So, we need to monitor these little things to help athletes stay at peak performance for the season.”
With all these little details now focal points, the boys are noticing the professionalism and extra attention paid to each part of their regime. They dominated the Abu Dhabi Harlequins 40-12 last weekend in a pre-season friendly and will fly off for a pre-season fixture against the Cyprus ‘A’ XV on September 27.
The official season starts on October 4 and their first home game is on October 11, where the team hopes to see a reappearance of the “Red Wall,” of fans, who supported them on their last two bids for the West Asia Championship.