Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor is relishing the build-up to the start of the new rugby season getting under way.
The Rubislaw outfit came back on July 6 for pre-season training and have been stepping up their preparations in the following weeks.
Grammar begin the new campaign at home to Edinburgh Accies, which will be their first competitive fixture since March 2020. The 2020-21 season was a non-starter given the Covid-19 pandemic.
O’Connor said: “We’re keen to get our guys going again in competitive stuff. A lot of the stuff at the start of the season was touch (rugby), then it’s gone into contact and the whole dynamic changes.
“It’s a challenge but we’re looking forward to it. We’ve retained most of the players we needed to. The players are keen and we’re just looking to get cracking on with it.
Scottish Rugby have published next season's fixtures which sees our 1st XV start their campaign at Rubislaw on 4 September vs @EdinburghAccies 🏉
The Bears also start their season at home on 4 September against North Police Scotland 🐻
For more info: https://t.co/MDmBi7kTQC
— Aberdeen Grammar Rugby (@ABDNRugby) June 23, 2021
“We’re in week five now of pre-season so it’s past the half-way point. We’re getting a bit more tactical and technical now after spending some time building up fitness.
“There’ll still be a lot of hard work, but a bit more attention getting paid to the scrum, lineout and finer details for the pre-season games heading into September 4 and the start of the league.”
Grammar have so far got two friendlies lined up, taking on a 2012 club select XV on August 14 then travelling to Highland the week after.
O’Connor added: “It’ll be good to get the boys experiencing some contact rugby again. There’ll be some sore bodies but I suppose some have our guys have been playing some rugby league over the summer. They’ve had that experience of taking contact, making tackles.
“Hopefully we’re in a good place and these friendlies should get us where we need to be.”
Ben Renton, Mark New, Matthew Emmison and Corey Buchan were all new additions last season but have yet to pull on a Grammar jersey in a competitive game. Evan Fairweather and his brother Ryan have also made positive impressions in pre-season training.
“They’re really speedy, pacy talented guys who play in the back division,” added O’Connor. “They’re going to bring a lot of quality to the team.
“We’ve lost a couple of players too. Sean Mills has gone back to Gordonians and Dom Wallen has moved back to Edinburgh. We’ve lost a few guys that have moved on due to life circumstances but we hope we’ve replenished and we’re happy with the depth of the squad.
“You plan for it (squad changes) in a sense. Sometimes that means thinking ahead and getting a player in and saying ‘what about training you up in another position?’ so if we’ve got someone else coming in, we can shift pieces around.
“By and large guys are flexible – they see the value in doing it. One player like that is Jordan Robertson; he started with us a winger, then moved to number eight, then back row and now he’s playing front row.
“Having that flexibility means we can bring other people in and still get our best players on the park. That’s part of the plan and something we’ll continue to do.”