After a break of only five weeks, Rotherham Titans’ players begin their pre-season training today.
The 36 members of the Championship squad - 16 new players and 20 retained from last season - have only eight weeks to prepare for the first friendly against Premiership champions, Northampton Saints, and then another three before the new campaign starts in September.
A major figure in Rotherham’s success last season was Josh Fletcher, the Titans’ strength and conditioning coach.
And again Fletcher, formerly fitness adviser to the GB Water Polo team at the 2012 Olympics, will perform an influential role.
“Everyone is itching to get going again and there’s a real buzz at Clifton Lane,” says Fletcher, who has a degree in Sports Science.
“We use a gym at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and when I’ve tested the players for fitness, they’ll be given certain goals to achieve.
“We’ll be doing a variety of exercises: weights, speed and power training, running, injury prevention, strength tests and skill sessions with the ball.
“Each day is different but between eight and five either at the gym or on the training field, the boys will work very hard.
“We were certainly one of the fittest teams in the league last season because Lee Blackett, our coach, said his priority was to play a fast game for 80 minutes.
“So that will continue and we’ve got a similar programme this season, but improvements can be made because Rotherham can’t afford to stand still.
“Opposing teams now know that Rotherham will play a high tempo game and sides will be coming after us.
“We’ve carried out a massive appraisal of what we did last season when we got a lot right, but Rotherham must move on.
“Some of our big players have left, but those coming in will do an excellent job.
“From day one, we’ll be doing skill sessions with the ball.
“Lee likes to see the ball in the players’ hands straight away.
“The boys performed well last season, were exciting to watch but lacked composure against the bigger teams like Bristol, London Welsh and Leeds.
“My job is to make a difference on a daily basis and to prepare the fittest side so that Lee can play the style he wants.”
Always present, home and away, the appointment of Fletcher and his expertise is a solid sign of the growing professionalism at Rotherham as coach Blackett prepares for his second season.