Houles driving Toulouse to improve

Toulouse Olympique coach Sylvain Houles is preparing his team for their forthcoming campaign in the Championship, and he has acknowledged that there is much work to be done.

The coach knows that his team must be fitter and sharper, both physically and mentally, and he and his assistant coach Christophe Toustou and TO conditioner Adam Innes, are focusing much of their work towards this.

“Obviously, there will be re-conditioning,” said Houles.

“Players are returning from a month and a half of holidays, so they need to get back in shape, and even more so than they were last season.

“Already on our arrival in League One, we had seen a physical deficit compared to the other teams, this gap will be even more present in Championship.

“But we can work as much as we want on this, we will not catch up with the English, and it is not necessarily our goal because we do not want to lose what makes us strong: mobility, speed, technique –  we must continue to maintain this.

“Finally, we also want to be intelligent, which is why we will also focus on analyzing situations.

“The players will have to know how to make the best possible choice in a given situation, taking into account of course all the constraints of a match: under pressure from the opponent, with fatigue and weather conditions.

“We have been working on this offseason for a long time. From the end of the League One season and the final against Barrow to be precise.

“Thanks to the videos of the matches, we analyzed all the negative points that occurred during the 2016 season, all the technical faults, such as handling errors, all that allowed our opponents to score or to put us in difficulty.

“We categorized them, which gave interesting statistics, and we defined the improvements to be made during preseason.

“In the Championship, we want to leave our opponents as few chances to score as possible.”

Houles also feels that his team are developing a good collective spirit, and that there is a good balance in the group.

“It’s a good overall balance, between the young and the experienced, the French and foreigners,” he said.

“Stan Robin, for now our only new recruit, will bring a lot to the group, thanks to his technique and speed.

“We will also integrate the young players from the Training Centre into the group.

“We have very versatile players for the most part, but we still need to expand. We are in the process of following up some leads.

“We’ve been working with this group for three years. In every offseason, we are keen to keep the hardcore of the team together as much as possible.

“And when there are recruits, they adapt perfectly to our mentality. So far, we have succeeded. There is a real team spirit, and it is felt on the field. It is very valuable.”

Houles is also excited about the prospect of taking on some of English rugby league’s most famous names in the Championship.

“The season promises to be exciting,” he said.

“When we look at the schedule, it’s a pleasure to tell ourselves that we will face teams of this calibre.

“Take Bradford, who have won the Super League, and Hull KR, who were in the final of the Challenge Cup in 2015, there really are great teams.

“And we have a very good schedule. From the first games, we’ll be in the thick of it, fighting Batley, Sheffield, Dewsbury, Bradford, Halifax – it’s heavy.

“And it’s great to start the season. Since this system of competition has been in place, we have noticed that there are no small matches, and that all points matter.

“Therefore, we need to respond. But I do not worry about that.”

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