Ken Murray

Settling in: Ken Murray (second left) with Tom Harrison, Troy Josephs, Mitch Greenway and Jake Girdler

DAN WARD-SMITH, the former England back-row and Inside Running Academy Manager, tells us how Rugby World competition winner Ken Murray is enjoying his first few weeks in New Zealand…

Dan Ward-SmithKen arrived full of enthusiasm and was eager to get to know the other boys. After picking Ken up from the Tauranga bus station I took him straight to his accommodation in a guesthouse where he is staying with six other academy players, two in each room. Ken made a great initial impression by asking lots of insightful questions. He was very grateful for the opportunity to be out here in New Zealand and couldn’t wait to start training. I didn’t feel I had to stick around to help Ken settle in with the other boys; he was straight in and making himself at home.

Ken is rooming with Augustin, an outside back who is a member of the Argentina Sevens squad, so there is an opportunity for them both to learn another language and find out more about life in another part of the world. I’m sure that rooming with someone who speaks another language is outside of both players’ comfort zone but that’s how you stretch yourself, through new experiences.

There was a lot to get through on Ken’s first day of actual training – a physio assessment, kit and supplement allocation, and a battery of strength, power and conditioning tests. What emerges at the end of the day is a pretty good picture of what type of programme Ken needs to take care of his strength and conditioning needs. After Ken’s tests we decided that while he will be working on all areas in the gym, strength should be his number one concern rather than cardiovascular endurance or power.

Ken’s training programme involves one session of whole-body strength, a session of upper-body strength, a hypertrophy session (to build muscle), an explosive power session and a pre-game primer session to get Ken ready for his weekend game. Around these gym sessions Ken has to get in one aerobic endurance session and one anaerobic interval session in each week. These would preferably be done by running or position-specific exercises like wrestling and pushing a prowler, but we can always alter them depending on his workload or injury status.

Inside Running Academy

Working hard: lineout practice

Ken also receives personalised injury prevention exercises from our physio team to plug into his gym sessions. This gives Ken the tools to get through the heavy workload of training and playing here without breaking down.

The next task at hand is the Player Development Plan. This is done to identify how Ken should be spending his time away from the S&C department. We have slots set aside for skill development where each player must be working on developing their position-specific skills. After my initial discussion with Ken we decided that he needed to be working on his ball-carrying, general body height in contact and his work over the ball post-tackle and when in the tackle assist position. We then came up with drills to point Ken in the right direction in terms of the volume needed each week and paired him up with other players who have similar work-ons.

The rest of Ken’s week is made up of two skills sessions with ex-All Black Kevin Schuler, two sessions with his club side Tauranga Sports, a game on a Saturday and a recovery session on a Sunday. After all that work is completed there is still a bit of time left for Ken to enjoy the company of his academy team-mates, take in the sights of Mount Maunganui, take a dip in the hot pools or go to the beach.

One final note, the other boys welcomed Ken in the traditional Maori way with a haka that was written especially for Inside Running Academy to acknowledge the journey the boys are all on towards becoming better players and people. Watch the video below and stay tuned for more updates from Ken’s time in NZ.