Rugby’s radical regimen

Players climb ranks by packing on pounds, preserving speed

Third-year forward Jacob Rumball (right) will replace departing back Dan Moor (left) as men’s rugby captain next season.
Third-year forward Jacob Rumball (right) will replace departing back Dan Moor (left) as men’s rugby captain next season.
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Fourth-year forward Doug Davidson (above) leads the off-season training programs along with strength coach Rodney Wilson.
Fourth-year forward Doug Davidson (above) leads the off-season training programs along with strength coach Rodney Wilson.

Dan Moor came a long way prior to captaining the men’s rugby team.

He played on the fifth squad in 2008, but scored the opening try last November to lead Queen’s over the Western Mustangs for the OUA championship. Climbing the seven-team rugby club ranks was a long-term project.

“It doesn’t just happen in three months during a rugby season. It’s really a 12-month effort,” Moor said.

For a club of burgeoning rugby players striving to crack the first team, the only true designated time off is post-championship week. Moor’s path is becoming less un-travelled with year-round rugby programs designed to maximize strength.

Headed by Queen’s strength and conditioning coach Rodney Wilson and fourth-year Gaels forward Doug Davidson, Moor said off-season training’s taken on a new level.

“You clearly have all the support and resources you need if you want to improve as an athlete in the off-season here,” Moor said. “Guys who are really getting involved are seeing massive dividends now.”

Moor estimates 40-50 lbs. in gains since his first-year ­— partially crediting Queen’s training regimen and the flow of knowledge passed down through generations of players.

With Moor set to graduate, the captaincy’s been passed on to third-year prop Jacob Rumball — a looming figure at 6’2’’, 260 lbs.

It’s a 45-pound increase from 2010 — Rumball’s first Gaels season.

“I was undersized — a little slower than maybe necessary and certainly physically underprepared,” Rumball said.

Rumball’s size is due to a combination of Queen’s and Rugby Canada strength programs over three years. Rumball spent months training in B.C. and competed for Canada’s U-20 squad for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in June.

“Both programs really aren’t that different — that’s the funny thing,” Rumball said, adding that nutrition, speed training, strength and conditioning are equally emphasized.

Former seventh-squad club player Brendan Sloan made his debut with the first squad last fall. His trick was five to six gym sessions per week over 52 weeks for three years using Queen’s off-season programs.

“To finally get a start with the top team and get a few games with them, it was nice,” Sloan said.“That was a huge deal for me — that was a goal for me when I came here.”

He gained 40 lbs. since 2010, gaining muscle, maintaining flexibility and transitioning from a back to a forward in the process. Sloan makes more tackles as a flanker, and has “fewer responsibilities.”

The former winger claims he hasn’t lost a step, either.

“My speed hasn’t really gone down at all,” Sloan said. “And it’s all just credit to the guys who’ve been training me.”

Helping lead the off-season training is Doug Davidson, a starting prop alongside Rumball last fall. The fourth-year physical education student said strength is the key to any good rugby player — no matter the size.

“For a lot of the guys — they’ve grown up playing sports, jumping, running and all that explosive stuff,” Davidson said. “Generally speaking, the best way to make someone who’s very speed-oriented faster and more athletic is just to add strength.”

As a strength trainer and rugby player, Davidson issued a caution: a good weight-lifter doesn’t equate to a good rugby player. Nor is he convinced good lifters will make a good rugby team.

“For the most part, the success that’s on the rugby field, you’ve got to leave that to [head coach Peter Huigenbos] and other coaches] ... and the club system — how it develops players as players.”

Davidson said the hours spent training in the off-season are merely complementary at best.

“If you’re 5-10 pounds heavier, a bit faster, stronger into contact, it’s going to help,” he said. “But the guys on the rugby club are rugby players, not weight lifters. That’s what it comes down to.”

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