Pre-season blood: Bongo smiling after friendly fire

Belt each other before you belt your rivals. That was the ACT Brumbies’ adage for the fierce final field sessions of the year, and the stitches above Josh Mann-Rea’s eye prove they didn’t hold back.

But veteran rake Mann-Rea said the battered bodies and blood spilled will be the groundwork for the Brumbies to rise to a new level when the Super Rugby season begins.

The Brumbies finished their last major training of the year on Thursday, with coaches springing a 1.2 kilometre time trial on the players before an afternoon of “whacking each other”.

“The impact we’ve been doing is the most physical I’ve done since I’ve been here,” said Mann-Rea, who was split open by rookie prop Harry Lloyd.

“It’s pretty much been fully live [contact], guys have been whacking each other pretty hard and cutting each other in half. Hopefully if we can do that to each other, we can do it to other teams.” The Brumbies will finish their first pre-season block on Friday before Wallabies players return to the group at the start of January.

David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano will join the squad in mid-January when they finish their respective playing stints in Japan and Ireland.

The Brumbies have tailored individual training programs to ensure their senior players don’t get burnt out during the 12-month rugby season.

The cut above Josh Mann-Rea’s eye. Photo: Supplied

Mann-Rea had a lighter workload during the National Rugby Championship season, while 145-game front-rower Ben Alexander started his pre-season this week.

Mann-Rea used his time to bulk up, adding an extra two kilograms to his frame without losing speed or endurance.

The 36-year-old will be the oldest player at the Brumbies next year and one of the oldest in Super Rugby, but is keen to prove he can match it with the best in his fifth season in Canberra.

He will compete with Folau Faingaa and Robbie Abel for the No. 2 jersey.

“It’s definitely the strongest I have been. I’m feeling fitter, stronger even though I am a little bit heavier – I’m leaner as well,” Mann-Rea said.

“Having last year and doing the full season as a starter, it gives you a lot of experience playing into a game rather than coming in and finishing a game.

“I’m looking forward to the competition with the other hookers to try and get that role again.”