I'm happy to announce today that Lions Super 14 loose forward and USA Captain Todd Clever will be joining Rugbydump as a regular contributor. As the season kicks into gear, Todd will be bringing us some great insights and rare video footage of what goes on behind when the scenes when it comes to training, half time team talks, touring, and a whole lot more.
He will be playing against the Chiefs this weekend, which I'm sure we'll hear about soon, but to get things started we have a short blog from him about pre-season training, speeding up the game, and why flankers won't be able to cheat this season.
The 2010 Super 14 campaign started in November for the majority of the squad. I was away on National team duty with the USA Eagles so I arrived a few weeks late.
When I arrived for training the team looked big, fit, and strong. I knew I had to put some extra work in to be able to compete with the guys. There's also been quite a few changes with a new head coach, strength coach, and a few new players coming into the squad.
It seemed like many of the players had a lot to prove, with myself being no different. All the changes are good, it keeps you on your toes, and as a player it can and should bring out the best in you.
We'vehad a couple of preseason games versus the Bulls and Puma's/Leopards as a run up to Super 14 kick off. It was a great chance to showcase the efforts we'd been putting in at training. We attacked from everywhere and tried some new things.
We didn't go for post's once but instead called a scrum or line out, while throwing in some quick taps here and there. You can take what you want from these games and it is a good way to iron out all the kinks and try different options and variations to implement during the season.
The attitude within the squad has been very positive and the guys are eager to get into the action. The final cuts were made within the week before the tournament began, which is late compared to other teams, but a lot of guys were proving their worth and I am sure making decisions difficult for management.
As much as it was nerve racking, I think it was a good strategy by management. We are still a new team, and with new talent mixed with seasoned players, it didn't allow anyone to get in their comfort zone. Everybody was pushing each other all the way to the season opener.
It seems like almost every year they change a law or two in our sport. Some changes are very minor and others change the game dramatically. For example last year with the ELV's, which made almost every infraction turn into a half arm (free kick). The purpose of this was to speed up the game and have it more exciting with more tries.
The rest of the world did'nt follow the Southern Hemisphere ELV's though. It must have been pretty confusing as a spectator that follows rugby world wide to follow the different laws in different leagues. I know as a player is was no different - one month playing Super 14 with the ELV's, then the next with the USA Eagles back to original laws.
And this year is no different as changes have been made to the laws at the Breakdown. This allows the attacking team to have a big advantage and the ref's are going to penalize the defence for slowing the ball down or any hands in on the ruck. It's going to be much harder to poach and turn ball over at the point of tackle this year.
This should result in a lot more penalties and less kicking (box, grubbers). These new laws are not ideal for most open side flankers, so it will be interesting to see the new ways they are going to cheat to get their hands on the ball.
I'm happy to be able to share my experience with everyone through Rugbydump. I'm planning on writing a few blurbs throughout the season, so all feedback is appreciated. I don't want to bore the readers, but rather tell stories and experiences that you may be interested in. If however there is anything in particular you want me to write about, feel free to express that.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Todd has his own personal website where you can not only learn more about him, but also see his latest news, fitness tips, photo gallery's, and a whole lot more.
Check it out at www.toddclever.com
He's also heavily involved in the newly launched Eagles XV website, which is a great resource for fans to learn more about the USA players as they march towards the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. We'll hear from Todd again soon.