Hard work starts now - Dollman

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Phil Dollman knows pre-season at the Chiefs is where the foundations are laid for the new season ahead. Picture: www.jmpuk.com

By Nigel Walrond

Exeter Chiefs full-back Phil Dollman says pre-season is a necessary evil to have to go through after the Gallagher Premiership club’s players returned to training this week.

Afterr three days of warm weather team bonding in Ibiza - a regular summer trip for the players at Sandy Park - it's now down to the serious business for the Devon club, whose first pre-season test comes on August 17th with a trip to the Cornish Pirates.

Dollman, the 33-year-old who has been granted a testimonial by the club, has been doing some fitness work during the off-season ahead of what he knows is in store in the coming weeks.

Dollman has been through plenty of pre-seasons during his career, and said: “It doesn’t get any easier each year but it is a necessity and you have got to get it done and try and get as much out of it as possible.

“I missed out last year because I got an injury in the Premiership final against Wasps (which also meant he was denied the chance to win his first Welsh cap) and the recovery from that went into pre-season, and then you find yourself starting to worry about whether you have done enough work in pre-season to be ready for the Premiership season.

“It is a building block for us and you have got to do it, and you have got to put as much into it as you possibly can. It is about getting your head around it early on. It always seems quite daunting coming back in and counting down the weeks until the physical testing.”

Recalling his first pre-season at Exeter a decade ago, when he joined the club from Newport-Gwent Dragons, Dollman recalled: “My first day at the club was the day after I got off a flight from Dubai, and it was only eight days after finishing the season with the Dragons. We were up at the Exeter Arena track doing 100m and 400m sprints, and 1500m, and I was thinking ‘oh no, I am not enjoying this’, but that seems a long time ago now.”

It is essential that every player has a rest at the end of the season, but it is not long before they start heading back into Sandy Park because of the fear of falling behind in the fitness stakes.

“It is difficult because you have got to try and get a balance between your rest time, which is really important, but also easing yourself back in so it is not a big surprise when you come in for pre-season and start running around, and your legs are absolutely knackered or you can’t keep up. But some guys are able to put their feet up for as long as possible and just do one or two sessions, and they are able to do that, so it is about getting the right balance for you personally.

“The conditioners at the club give us a programme that we are meant to follow, but you can pick and choose what you take out of that.”

Phil Dollman in action for the Chiefs against Harlequins last season. Picture: Getty Images

Dollman says there is plenty to be excited about in the new season, with the Chiefs aiming to reclaim their Premiership crown from Saracens, and also the prospect of playing the likes of French champions Castres and twice European champions Munster in the Heineken Cup.

“It is exciting every year,” said Dollman. “We have shaken off that tag of over-achievers now, which is important, and now we just want to make sure we keep improving. Those next steps in Europe, and pushing for another league title, is big for us now, and the belief is there, and it is a case of just making sure we put the work in to then increase that belief and quality that we can keep putting out there.

“We have been close in Europe and we got close to beating the eventual winners Leinster last year, and if we had won those two games, we would have been in a good spot. We have got two new teams in our group, but they will still be big fixtures and tough games, new challenges, new places, new tests, but they’ll be enjoyable.”

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