Roy Winters: "My Bristol Rugby training regime keeps me fresh"
ROY Winters has paid tribute to Bristol's strength and conditioning staff for modifying his training regime so he can continue to be as effective as ever where it matters: on the field.
Bristol lock Winters turns 37 in December, but remains an integral part of Liam Middleton's pack and impressed again in Sunday's 23-13 win over Bedford.
One of the few current professional players to have played senior rugby during the amateur era, Winters is renowned for setting the example to the club's youngsters with his dedicated approach to training.
But he has revealed how his Monday-to-Friday workload has recently been modified to ensure he is firing on all cylinders when the weekend comes around.
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"The conditioners do look after me – they wrap me up in cotton wool every now and then," said the former England man.
"I wish I could do all the training sessions, the same as the boys, and I feel terrible when I don't.
"But I've finally come to realise that I can't do everything – and what happens on the pitch is most important. I thank the conditioning staff and the coaches for that fact."
Bristol returned to winning ways in the Championship on Sunday, having lost their three previous matches in the league. But Winters felt the recent two-match block of British & Irish Cup games, during which his side beat Cardiff and Ulster Ravens, came at a perfect time for Bristol.
"I think the British & Irish Cup has been a godsend for us," said Winters. "We had the pressure of the Championship lifted from us, we changed a few things in training, and a lot of dogged, hard work on the training field is finally coming to fruition for us. The performance against Bedford was credit to the character within the squad, but I think that has come over the last four weeks of doing a bit of soul-searching and working hard on that pitch. That togetherness has really come through."
Bristol did not dwell on their success over Bedford for too long – and work has already started ahead of Sunday's trip to third-placed Nottingham.
Bristol remain 19 points behind leaders Newcastle and 12 adrift of Bedford in second. But they have closed the gap on the all-important top four to three points
"What happens with Newcastle and Bedford at the top, that's out of our hands now," said Winters.
"We've just got to do everything possible within ourselves and that's what we're starting to do.
"We've had a very good win against Bedford, but we've already started looking at the next game.
"We've traditionally had some very tough games up at Nottingham, and their league position speaks for itself, so we know we're going to be up against it."
But Bristol will be buoyed by their performance against Bedford – particularly how they limited the previously free-scoring Blues to 13 points and one try.
"We've had a few weeks of being nearly there but not quite finishing off, but against Bedford our defence showed a massive improvement from previous weeks," said Winters.
"We'd been leaking a lot of tries, but it's just about us making the right decisions in defence: whether we stick our heads into mauls, whether we compete for it or if we fold and scan and have numbers on our feet.
"We did that at the weekend and the result was a good defensive display."