Re: How much variation is there?
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Speaking from Bristol’s perspective and from the literature Ash has been kind enough to publish on this site I can say that yes there are differences. These mainly consist of the length of the season and the off/pre-season periods.
At Bristol we have a squad of 51 players which is very big and i believe that most super 14 teams have roughly 35 players. In terms of strength & conditioning that does impact on planning and delivery of sessions. We have 3 S & C coaches and it does not take a genius to work out that if we had a squad of 35 then the quality of delivery would improve.
Also in the southern hemisphere rugby is played in better conditions on much better pitches, this is conducive to a faster game and therefore players require higher levels of aerobic/anaerobic fitness. The conditions in the UK can be awful and pitches like mudfields, from a conditioning standpoint this requires the forwards to be very strong and powerful but not quite as fit as their southern hemisphere counterparts. In addition this year we are not playing the free kick rule, wheras last year the southern hemisphere did, which again impacts on conditioning.
Of course each coach has subtle differences in their philosophy and opinions on how players should be trained. So in answer to your question I would imagine there are some things similar but also lots of things done differently.