Commandos get to grips with the Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
“It’s a State of Mind”
Only a select few every get to wear the coveted Green Beret and become a Royal Marine, but this week Exeter Chiefs were given an insight into the make-up of one of Britain’s elite fighting forces.
Pre-season is a necessary evil ahead of any new campaign, but the hard work and effort put in ahead of the big kick-off can often be the difference between success and failure.
Chiefs’ Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, admitted at the end of last season that his squad would be looking to go ‘back to basics’ in their bid to get back amongst the Gallagher Premiership frontrunners.
A new rebrand for the Devon club this summer has offered the perfect reason for times of change and this week the Chiefs squad got stuck into life at the nearby Commando Training Centre Royal Marines at Lympstone to ready themselves for seasonal battle.
Building on the already strong links between the club and the Royal Marines, the squad reported for duty on Monday for the start of two-days intense training, all of which was aimed at not only testing their physical capabilities, but also their mental capabilities, both individually and collectively.
Day One started with work within the gym and swimming pool, but was then followed by tackling the notorious Bottom Field – a series of Commando tests (Assault Course, 200 metre Carry, plus Rope Regain) all of which are aimed to test the body to it’s very limit.
There was to be no let-up on Day Two for the Chiefs squad, who again following an early morning gym session at the club were then dispatched to Woodbury Common to undergo the Marines Endurance course.
An initial two-mile, cross-country course through rugged terrain and water obstacles, the squad were then put into teams to run the four miles back to the CTC base with a ladened stretcher.
A brief respite, which included a leadership talk from RM Major Matt Gray, was then followed by another swim session and onto the last of the training tasks, the strength-sapping Mud Run in the nearby Exe Estuary.
With energy at a premium at this stage, the Chiefs had to dig deep in a series of tasks that included crawling, pushing and carrying through the thick mud.
Head of Strength & Conditioning, Mark Twiggs, himself a former Royal Marine PTI, was delighted with the effort, commitment and performance put in by the entire squad.
“We wanted to test the boys in a different environment and it’s been a while since we’ve come down to CTC and worked with the Marines on something like this,” he said. “What we’ve seen from the guys, both individually and collectively, was outstanding and it’s sure to set the foundations for what we believe will be a very strong pre-season programme.
“At the same time, I wish to thank Cpt Pete Taylor, Sgt Al Gasson, together with Chief of Staff, Lt Col Tom Evans-Jones and all the PTIs at the Commando Training Centre for their support throughout the two days.
“Everyone knows the link between ourselves at the Royal Marines is very strong, but this has merely helped to galavanise that bond even further.”