WALES COACH WARREN Gatland has made a shrewd appointment ahead of the World Cup by bringing Toulon fitness expert Paul Stridgeon on board as head of physical performance.
Paul Stridgeon has joined Gatland’s backroom team. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Stridgeon joined Toulon last summer after six years as England’s fitness coach, and will continue his role with the Top 14 giants alongside this new tournament-by-tournament position with Wales.
A statement from the WRU confirmed that Stridgeon linked up with Gatland’s squad on Monday morning as their preparations for the World Cup got underway.
Stridgeon has a superb relationship with Gatland, having worked under the Kiwi head coach at Wasps during the time the club won three Premiership titles and a Heineken Cup. The 34-year-old also worked with Gatland on the 2013 Lions tour.
Indeed, Stridgeon made a strong impression on the players on both that 2013 tour of Australia and the Lions’ 2009 visit to South Africa, with Ireland captain Paul O’Connell remaining in regular contact with the fitness expert after they built a friendship on those trips.
O’Connell spoke to Stridgeon on a number of occasions as he weighed up Toulon’s contract offer and will look forward to working with the former freestyle wrestler again next season.
Stridgeon’s expertise adds to a Welsh strength and conditioning team that already has a superb reputation. His work began at the WRU’s world-class National Centre of Excellence facility this week, while Gatland’s men will also undergo training camps in Switzerland and Qatar next month.
Stridgeon with Jamie Heaslip before a 2013 Lions game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
The fact that Wales face England in Pool A of the World Cup adds an extra layer of intrigue to this appointment, as Stridgeon now plots to get the Welshmen in better physical condition than Stuart Lancaster’s charges, many of whom he knows well.
“Paul will be a huge asset to the national squad and I’m delighted that we have been able to secure his services,” said Gatland in a WRU statement.
“I would like to thank the Welsh Rugby Union for their efforts in once again ensuring we have the strongest possible management team and I would also like to thank Toulon and in particular their president, Mourad Boudjellal, for his help and on-going assistance in creating this role, which I believe will benefit both sides.
“He is well known to a number of players and will compliment the team and plans currently in place.”
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