Ulster hooker Adam McBurney shares his thoughts on pre-season training and expectations for the season ahead.
Hi Adam. How is pre-season training going?
Pre-season has been good – it’s a bit different this year as we have been working with a new format. We’re in for three main training days and then the other two days we have been doing some extra conditioning to top up the legs.
Training has been pretty fun actually, but obviously it’s been tough as well. The plan is to have a lot of conditioning and a lot of focus on skills in this first block. Then, in block two, I think we’re going to ramp it up even more and add an extra day’s training and get more into the actual rugby side of it as we get ready for the start of the season.
Roddy Grant has come in has come in as forwards coach this summer. How has he settled in and what do you see him bringing to the set-up?
Roddy is great and fits in really well with the players and the management. As a squad we are quite young, and the coaching staff are quite young too. Roddy is not that long out of the game and it’s good to have a new face to chat to and get new ideas from.
He played in the back-row and brings a lot to the breakdown department in particular. He is also great with the line-out and has given some tips to us hookers, bringing in a couple of new drills.
In what way is Dan (McFarland) integrating into that work with the forwards?
Dan is taking more of the scrum and Roddy has been taking a good bit of the lineout. It’s good to have them both working with the forwards and chipping in with bits and pieces of knowledge.
They’re able to bounce off each other while helping out the players and chip in with their own bits of advice.
Moving into pre-season this year I presume there is a pretty good buzz around the team given we had a pretty good season last year and there’s now a freshness with all the young players brought in last season too?
The age profile of the squad is great. There’s a freshness and excitement coming from the young players who have come into the squad.
We’re happy with what we achieved last season in the PRO14 and in Europe. That was our break-in season and this season is about going better than that and not being happy to settle.
A lot of the younger lads now have experience which obviously helps going into next season. A lot is expected of us now and we have an opportunity to learn some lessons from last season to get to the next level.
Rory (Best) won’t be back at Ulster and Rob (Herring) could potentially be on international duty for part of the season. Do you see this season as an opportunity to put down your name for a spot in the team?
Yeah definitely. Obviously, when I heard Rory was retiring, I knew that was possibly going to open-up more game time and this was the year I’ve really targeted.
I’ve learnt a lot in the past couple of seasons and got a bit more experience. This year I will be going out and attacking the opportunity and doing my best to prove what I can do in pre-season.
It’s in my hands at the start of this season to go out and, if I play the best rugby I can play, hopefully that will put me in the best position to stay in the team for most of the season.
In terms of Rory, how much do you think you’ve picked up from him in the past few years to give you that opportunity to push on?
Rory as a person and what he does off the pitch has probably taught me more than what he has done on the pitch.
For example, I’ve learned from him that in meetings you don’t have to say a lot for people to listen to you. It’s about talking at the right time and having the respect of the players around you.
The way he conducts himself off the pitch and the respect other people have for him is something I’ve tried to learn from. It’s the things you do off the pitch that help you get to where you want to be on the pitch.
Is there anything in particular that you are trying to focus on in pre-season – fitness, skills or otherwise?
Yeah, defensively my set-up at the tail-end of last season probably let me down a wee bit. It’s something I’ve been really focusing on with Jared (Payne).
We have been learning the new system that was brought in last year. It’s been difficult, but we were able to get the cobwebs out of the system at the end of last season.
It’s good to have two or three months along with pre-season to work on that and once it comes to the actual games hopefully the learning curve will be done and we’ll be into the swing of things.
You mentioned Jared – I spoke to Craig Gilroy earlier and he mentioned Jared really growing into his role. Do you notice that as well?
Yeah definitely. I suppose it’s really the theme of what we’ve been talking about. Younger squad and younger management too. It’s easy to forget Jared’s quite new into that role as a coach.
The moment he stepped into that role he had the knowledge in his head but I’m sure he’s learning how to get that message across most effectively.
We’ve had him for a year and it’s all clicking now. The sessions he puts on for us have been really good. I’ve really been enjoying it while getting the most out of it too.