NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have certainly left their mark on the gruelling sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr this pre-season.
Last week the region paid their final trip of the summer to the notorious Big Dipper; the second highest dune in Europe and an incredibly steep climb that nobody that ever runs up it forgets in a hurry.
Previous trips to the small village near Bridgend consisted of lung-bursting, energy-sapping reps up the sandy slopes.
But their final visit saw them presented with a challenge before being allowed to clock off for this week’s final break before the big kick-off.
Working as a group they had an hour to dig waist-high trenches that would form a logo to indicate that the Dragons had been there.
It needed to be seen from the sky (as yours truly was invited to view it from a plane piloted by winger Adam Hughes) and with flanker Darren Waters nominated as site foreman they all mucked in.
They opted for a Dragons claw marks and it was pretty impressive, leading head of conditioning Alex Lawson to label it as the perfect end to what has been a pleasing first block of training.
“It was a symbolic end to what has been a really, really hard five weeks of work,” said Lawson.
“The boys have been working unbelievably hard. They have been really committed and have dug deep.
“This first block was all about voluminous training; getting all of the hard, mentally-challenging work done. All the ugly stuff.
“The dunes are key because they work some endurance into the muscle and tolerance to work capacity.
“Throughout this first block it has been a nice way to end the week. The sessions have left them mentally and physically drained but once they have the dunes out of the way they can switch off ready to come back fresh on the Monday and go again.”
The squad have now jetted off to spend the week on the beach, relishing the chance to enjoy what will be their final break until the LV= Cup starts in November.
From Monday Lawson will spearhead the countdown to the RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Zebre on the weekend of August 31.
He said: “It was a tough first block for the boys but they have been superb. We’ve worked five days in a row for five weeks.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were really hard while Tuesdays and Thursdays were techical with plenty of content in the sessions, but not quite so physically demanding on the players.
“The final dunes session marked the end of the block and the squad will come back refreshed for the next stage, which will be getting back to high anaerobic work with a massive emphasis on speed and power gains.”
Supporters can see the Dragons’ preparations for the coming season at four open training sessions (from midday to 3pm).
The squad head to Caerphilly’s Virginia Park on Tuesday, July 31 before training at Blaenavon, Ebbw Vale and Newport on the following three Tuesdays.