I’LL admit, I was apprehensive returning to Ystrad Mynach back in June but the longest ever pre-season has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I looked Richard Hibbard in the eye I think it’s fair to say that we both had a bit of trepidation about what was to come.

I turned 32 this summer so have seen more than my share of pre-seasons, but this has been a good one with a positive mood in the camp.

The late start to the Guinness PRO14 because of the World Cup meant that we didn’t have to hit the road sprinting; the conditioning staff gave us a couple of weeks to get back up to speed.

They challenged us but haven’t killed us and that’s been perfect for me because in the past I’ve actually picked up niggles from training being ramped up straight away.

It’s still been tough and it was ‘nice’ for the squad to return to Merthyr Mawr.

We used to go there every Saturday but plenty of the squad had actually never been, which seemed odd for us senior boys who have left plenty of blood, sweat and tears on those sand dunes. Now those younger players certainly know all about the infamous Big Dipper.

The boys are looking sharp and it’s been good to see the likes of Jack Dixon getting back to his old ways while Sam Davies has slotted in really well – the fly-halves will be battling it for all of the season ahead with Josh Lewis and Arwel Robson all contributing to the rugby philosophy on and off the pitch.

It’s been a different pre-season schedule as shown by this week, we’ve been off whereas we would normally be booting up for friendlies in August.

Things will start to crank up next week as the rugby gets closer with the Scarlets friendly in mid-September, while I think the Cardiff Blues game in the Celtic Cup could feature pretty strong sides.

In the early blocks of pre-season there was plenty of work on our individual skills in fitness games but I expect from next week there will be more of an emphasis on structure and team plays.

It’s all about gearing up for the PRO14 and getting things in place under another new boss.

South Wales Argus:

I’ve played under Paul Turner, Darren Edwards, Lyn Jones, Kingsley Jones and Bernard Jackman, and now it’s Dean Ryan who is in charge.

He’s been excellent and a breath of fresh air – he has not told us all the answers but he has just asked the right questions.

Dean has been honest but hasn’t come in like a bull in a china shop.

He says that we have to train smarter, not harder, and a big theme of the start of his time here has been empowering the squad.

I wouldn’t say that we have started from scratch but every coach comes in with their different ideas and rugby philosophy.

But Dean has been big on players contributing rather than it all being prescribed by the management, he is trying to change our mindset.

I think that is really beneficial because a past criticism has been that we have been poor at adapting to what is going on in front of us on the pitch.

We’ll admit that is a fair criticism but hopefully being empowered on the training pitch will help us to adapt more quickly out in the middle in games.

We are in this together and what we do in Ystrad Mynach in the coming weeks will hopefully ensure we start well in the opening month of the season.