Edinburgh’s Fraser McKenzie eager to get blood pumping

Scottish professional rugby players, from left, Rob Harley, Fraser McKenzie, Sean Maitland and James Eddie get to grips with an AG Barr lorry at Scotstoun
Scottish professional rugby players, from left, Rob Harley, Fraser McKenzie, Sean Maitland and James Eddie get to grips with an AG Barr lorry at Scotstoun
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Fraser McKenzie has lifted the lid on a high-tech approach which could see Edinburgh Rugby challenge for top honours this season.

Since last pulling on a shirt three-and-a-half years ago prior to moving south for spells with Sale Sharks and Newcastle Falcons, returning second row McKenzie has seen massive changes at the BT Murrayfield outfit.

It is not just personnel which has changed, with only Dave Denton and Roddy Grant remaining from the starting line-up for his farewell encounter, against Aironi on April 15, 2011.

Match preparations have stepped up a notch, too, under coach Alan Solomons and his fitness training staff.

Latest to join the backroom team is former South African Institute of Sport guru Johan Pretorius and his methods are certainly raising eyebrows.

“Pre-season is extremely hard and the new conditioning coaches have roughed it up,” said the 6ft 6in and 18st 10lb McKenzie, adding: “Sessions are extremely long with game related aspects and that’s fine.

“We need to be physically conditioned so that when we start hitting rucks or making tackles fitness doesn’t go out the window.

“One feature is the new heart beat monitors we are wearing which show exactly how fatigued we are.

“Once or twice each week we do shuttle runs in the morning and from that Johan and his team can tell how we are feeling without us being able to control anything.

“The body gives out a score and they can see if you are run down or tired.

“There is a huge gauge as to how players are performing and for those not doing so well it might be they need a day off to rest.

“Others might need to ramp up their time in the gym.

“Every player has his own individual needs catered for and that has to be good.

“I can’t say it is going to make a better team, but it will help.

“It is all about your mind state, your knowledge of the game and how much you want it. You watch how other teams play and want to be hungrier and more demanding.”

A former captain of Scotland under-19 who has also been capped at A level and for the sevens line-up, Dunfermline-born McKenzie, now 26, has returned home with a year of his Newcastle contract to run.

Clearly completing the international jigsaw is a prime objective for a player who was in the extended 2012 Six Nations squad, but, in the meantime, his focus is entirely on Edinburgh and applying lessons learned in the Aviva Premiership.

“I’m returning with a lot of experience. In my first year at Sale we were top six and the next two years in the bottom half,” said McKenzie.

“I’ve seen both sides of what was always a set-piece orientated league with a lot of kicking.

“There’s not a great deal of running play and you have to be ready for the physicality or you get injured.

“Hopefully I can bring some physicallity but what Alan Solomons is cultivating is very explosive, fast and exciting rugby.

McKenzie has also welcomed a fixture schedule that has Edinburgh visiting former champions Munster and Ospreys within the first three weeks.

“It’s a chance to measure ourselves early and if we come away successful from these places then we will have a great lead into a season where I take nothing for granted about a starting place given the level of competition around,” he said.

McKenzie was speaking at the launch of a partnership between Scottish Rugby and Barrs which will see the drinks firm provide water to the teams through their Strathmore brand and also have soft drinks on sale at grounds.