Worcester prop John Andress has praised the input of former England and British Lions front-rower Phil Vickery ahead of his return to Sandy Park this weekend.
The 28-year-old will be part of the Warriors side bidding to break into the top half of the table against former club Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.
Victory could lift the Sixways outfit to heights not scaled since 2005, when they started the campaign with six wins in their first nine matches, and although they are not yet anything like as consistent, greater parity in the Premiership means they have a mid-table launch-pad.
Part of that stability stems from the fact they have shored up their scrum since Gloucester, Northampton and Leicester profited from the absence of regular tighthead Tevita Taumoepeau.
Andress has been part of the solution and now that his early struggles appear to be behind him, he is able to reflect on the benefits of having Vickery in the coaching set-up.
“He has been really good with me,” Andress said. “I have been in set-ups with other good coaches but not with the expertise and the individual focus on me. He is able to look and scrutinise what I am doing wrong or right.
“I have had a lot of one-on-ones with him and he has shown me what I can improve on, which I actually haven’t had before. A lot of clubs you are working in the set-patterns with a pack and it’s about fitting into the eight, but it’s like having a personal trainer. He’s been excellent with me so far.’’
Vickery joined Richard Hill’s remodelled back-room on a consultancy basis in the summer and with experience gained through 73 England caps, a World Cup-winning campaign and five Lions Tests he has clearly made a difference. Andress is conceding far fewer penalties and free-kicks than he did in his early Worcester games and he returns to Sandy Park, where he has had two spells, looking to make an impact.
It was, after all, the Chiefs who brought him to the Championship when his career at Ulster appeared to be foundering and his performances in that first spell won him a move to Harlequins.
A couple of years ago he looked set to return to Ulster only for the move to fall through and Exeter to step back in and offer him a contract.
However, he was forced to share the No. 3 shirt with Hoani Tui, Chris Budgen and Craig Mitchell and was limited to just four league appearances last term, which compelled him to look for a new start.
“There was more of a rotation policy there, I had started playing quite a bit before I signed here, but it was like you start one week, you play 15 minutes the next and then you play 30 the next.
“There were two or three tightheads so I made a decision to come here. Exeter is a fantastic club, what they are doing down there is fantastic and Rob Baxter is a really, really good coach. I could quite easily have stayed there and been in my comfort zone but I wanted a fresh challenge.”