Reds embrace heat but set to take precautions ahead of sweltering January trials

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Training through the suffocating heat of a Queensland summer will hand them "physiological benefits" but the Reds are still set to take extraordinary precautions heading into the earliest start yet to a Super Rugby season.

Queensland announced on Thursday they would play a trial against the Melbourne Rebels in Gladstone, in Central Queensland, on January 17, a week ahead of their clash against the Waratahs in Dalby, on the Darling Downs, a week later.

With both regions boasting a January daytime maximum average in the low 30s, the Reds will look to use every method at their disposal to cool their players for the necessary evil of a trial just weeks after Christmas.

As well as the usual summer routine of drinks breaks every 20 minutes, Ice towels, slushie drinks and ice vests will be used to lower players' core temperatures, while sideline infrastructure including industrial fans could be employed to ensure players do not overheat or become dehydrated.

The Reds kick off their season against the Brumbies in Canberra on January 31, the early season start allowing Super Rugby to run its course in entirety without the need for a hiatus for international games.

Coach Brad Thorn said the early start brought challenges though.

"It's an interesting one how it's come back so much, it's put a bit of pressure on the pre-season," he said.

"We've had five weeks but we sacrificed half a week for the Reds to Regions, which I thought was important to do.

 

"And then it's basically one week back after Chrissy and we play a trial.

"We'll just have to prepare the best we can. I guess the one thing is we're used to working in the heat up here. But we'll be smart around it."

Reds strength and conditioning coach Brynley Abad said training and playing in the heat became "second nature" to Queensland's players at this time of year.

"We're training in the heat so we're getting exposed to it every day," he said.

 

"Acclimatising to the heat is just naturally going to happen for us. It's got the obvious physiological benefits of adapting to the heat - increased blood volume, increased oxygen carrying capacity, that help us when we play in the heat and that's where we probably ambushed the Brumbies last year and we went out to actually put them in a dark place in the heat."

That advantage can become a disadvantage if not managed properly though.

Reds players are weighed before and after training to keep track of hydration levels, with Abad saying it was not uncommon for players to lose as much as 5kg in a single session in peak summer periods.

Length of sessions and recovery times are adjusted according to conditions.

"When you're continually training in the heat it can wear their bodies down if you're doing it for a long period of time," he said.

"So we do need to be careful of our training times and how long we go for an dour recovery time and cooling them off and all those bits and pieces."

The trials themselves could present a bigger challenge for the visiting sides, especially the Rebels, with Gladstone likely to couple the humidity of the tropics with summer heat.

"We'll look at the temperatures and we'll have a look at (any extra items that might be needed at the grounds)," Abad said.

"But definitely utilising ice towels, ice vests, slushies, to cool them down, so you've got that intra-cooling, that definitely helps.

"All that sort of thing and just making sure we're testing them hydration-wise and they're hydrated before the game, that type of thing."

With the Reds on the road for the first three rounds of the season, getting off to a strong start is imperative and Thorn said while challenging at this time of year, it was important for the team to have a couple of trials.

"It's pretty important that first round. The first round's as important as the last one, so we're trying to do well there and generally a couple of trials are good there," he said.

"You get to reward a couple of guys who may not get much time, in your first trial.

"And then in your second trial, I guess you're getting more of a look at the team that's looking likely (for round one) so they get a bit of cohesion together.

"It'll be interesting to see how the teams start in late January."