Ken Murray

Fast friends: Ken Murray (far right) with new mates Tom Harrison, Will Hopwood, MP Pretorious and Jack Lloyd

By Ken Murray, Rugby World competition winner

SINCE THE first blog on my stay here in Mount Maunganui at the Inside Running Academy, I’ve really settled into the rhythm of the schedule and been working hard at all aspects of my training. We have a serious mix of lads here, guys from England, USA, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia and Canada as well as New Zealand, so meeting loads of new people all from different countries and backgrounds is really cool. I’m living in a flat with three English guys – Jack, Ollie and Mike – and the atmosphere in the flats with all the Academy boys is always good.

The gym schedule since I’ve been here has been tough, but I have reaped the rewards. We have sessions each day under the supervision of Dan Ward-Smith and two local S&C coaches, and it is a focused setting where each of us has a programme that we follow to maximise our performances on the pitch. The lads here all have aspirations to push onto a professional contract in their home countries so the atmosphere is always serious when it comes to the sessions, but none of us are afraid to have a laugh either.

My main goal when it came to the gym after my initial meeting with Dan was strength gains and I feel I’ve really advanced in this regard thanks to the programme that has been set out for me. Having the services of Nic Gill, the All Blacks S&C coach, is a fantastic experience; he really brings some professional insights into our training and skill-sets. We also train in the same gym as the Bay of Plenty ITM Cup squad so we’ve gotten to know a few of them as well, and they’ll give anyone a hand with a spot or some advice.

The skills sessions we do with Kevin ‘Herb’ Schuler are always challenging us to advance our skill-sets and vision. We do a lot of drills and those skills usually then transfer to what we’ll be doing in the conditioned games like Drop Touch and a game that Herb created called BIFOO Touch, which stands for Body in Front Of Opponent. BIFOO always is hotly contested and since the rules are so vague and poorly refereed by Herb, there can often be a lot of cheating and physical contact for a “touch” game!

Mount Maunganui

Motivation: the view from Mount Maunganui

We also do conditioning on a Monday, which usually means running up Mount Maunganui. These sessions are always tough, but you are timed from the start to the summit and all the guys are always trying to break their personal bests and the camaraderie with all the guys pushing each other up is good to be a part of.

My club, Tauranga Sports, are doing well in both competitions – the Premier men’s side are top the table and the Colts team which I play for are guaranteed a home quarter. The atmosphere in Sports is great and the community feel is really captured when the teams come together for a meal in the clubhouse after the weekend games or training on Thursday nights. There are nine of us from the Academy who play for Sports and our Colts side recently went boxing in a local gym. We were pushed to our limits and shown how many skills from boxing, such as footwork and aerobic fitness, can be translated to rugby.

I’m halfway through my Academy experience now and am looking forward to the second six weeks of my stay here in New Zealand. The main goals I have are to win the Colts Championship with Tauranga Sports and then push onto pres-eason training to have me in ideal shape for when I return back to Dublin for the upcoming season.