By Haden Tye
Albion coach James Earp will remain at Brickfields next season and he says he is looking forward to working with Kieran Hallett and his team for another season.
Albion’s strength and conditioning coach has enjoyed his time at Albion so far and will be able to prepare Albion’s team even better for the forthcoming season with the addition of time on his hands, which he lacked when taking over last summer.
However, James quickly installed his fitness regimes into the Albion team and their fitness has benefitted from James’ nous. James works closely with Kieran, who is a fan of his work and has previously backed Albion to be the fittest side in the league.
“It’s been absolutely awesome,” said James of his time at Albion. “I have loved every minute of it. I was a bit dubious going into the situation having known previous coaches and what happened at the start of the year but I got in there, worked my way in and worked up a really good relationship with the boys. I planned pre-season in two weeks because I got in pretty late. But the boys bought into it and everything that I wanted to do and we are reaping the benefits. I absolutely love it. I love working with Kieran, and Julian and Claudia and all the boys, so it has been great.
“There was talk of me coming to Albion the season before, when Graham [Dawe] was there. I knew James Owen who had already been there previously for several seasons and he had done a really good job. I knew a lot of boys from the Cornwall set-up so I think my name was bounced around a little bit as to go up there.
“I didn’t know what to expect really; the club was in a bit of turmoil and the facilities were less than average so I came with a little bit of an open mind to see what I can do and it came good in the end what we had up there. I have had experience; I have played a lot of rugby and conditioned within rugby for years and I like working with individual athletes as well as group settings, but it was a bit of an unknown entity. I love challenges so I relished it really and when the opportunity came up I thought I’d take it.”
James is a lively character within the Albion dressing room and as well as working closely with the players, has a brilliant personal and working relationship with Kieran, with the pair sharing several interests – fitness being one of them.
“I get on really well with Kieran,” said James. “On a personal note, I get on really well with him and we have got some of the same interests. He is a fitness fanatic as well so he knows how important it is. I liaise with him a lot. Probably too much – ask our wives! I probably speak to him a bit too much about things really. It is massively important that we have a really good relationship, and we do. He backs me to deliver the goods on my part and obviously you can see that he is delivering the goods on his part. He is a good guy.
“You get a brief from the coach as to how he wants to play. Then I have got to work my conditioning around that. So it plays a vital cog in the system. If your conditioning isn’t right then you are having a couple of battles on the field; you are having a battle with yourself and your fitness and then a battle with the opposition. What I wanted to do was take away that battle that the person has with themselves so they can just concentrate on playing rugby. In my mind it plays a massive part. It is a huge part now of every professional sport.
“We want to play quick up-tempo rugby, get off our line with a lot of line speed in defence and repeatedly play an up-tempo game. At the same time you have got 30 guys you have got to have ready on the Saturday. They have to be fresh and ready, not peaking – because you never really get a rugby player to peak because they are always injured. They go through a small car crash every Saturday and then you have got to get them ready for the following Saturday.”
A self-confessed strength and conditioning nerd, James is relishing the opportunity to work with interns in his field of work next season and says it will give Albion scope to do a wider variety of work with the team.
“I think we are going to have a couple of interns,” said James. “I am really looking forward to that! I taught Physical Education for ten years so there is part of me that has a teaching side anyway. I am sadly a bit of strength and conditioning nerd so I study constantly all the time. I read books all the way up, and probably all the way back home from away games, so it will be nice to be able to get someone in and get them thinking on my level and pass on a bit of the experience that I have had. It will be nice to get a hand – because it has been a nightmare this year with regards to having people around so we can do a few more things this coming year than we did last year.”