New coach Andy Key has criticised Rotherham Titans’ fitness last year - but says they have got it right now.
Titans open their league campaign on Sunday at home to Nottingham, having been pre-season training since June.
He said: “It’s fair to say last year that was one of the criticisms - the team wasn’t as fit as it needed to be. I think it was evident, certainly at the back end of the season. Those areas, I know we’ve put right. If you’re not fit then you can’t play the game. Players then get frustrated that they can’t execute.”
Rotherham wrapped up their pre-season campaign with a 25-17 win over Coventry.
“We’re looking forward now to challenging ourselves. In pre-season you do things slightly different. We’ve had three games that have allowed us to try things out. But it starts in earnest on Sunday, that’ll be the true test” said Key. Rotherham have endured two difficult seasons in English rugby union’s second-tier with successive bottom three finishes. At times, the side’s professionalism and commitment has been cast into doubt.
A new head coach and squad overhaul, which includes 18 new arrivals, offers a chance to hit the reset button.
Key revealed what has pleased him the most from his players since his arrival.
“I think it’s really the commitment and the desire to want to really succeed this year, from the whole squad,” he said.
“There are factors, both on and off the field, that we need to make sure were in place so that we give a good account of ourselves.
“I’m really pleased that the players have taken that on board. It bodes well for a good gelling and a good environment where players want to be, and if you’ve got that, then they’re at their best.”
On a personal level, Key insists he is “loving” his role in the club’s revival.
“You can’t beat it, can you? When you’re involved in a sport that you’ve loved ever since you were a young kid playing, to get the opportunity to be a part of a club like this, who are very passionate, very close.
“They’ve got a lot of supporters.
“We’re one big family here, that what makes us a different club perhaps to some of the other Championship clubs. In that case, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”