"There is nowhere to hide. He takes them to dark places where they have to deal with the confrontation side of things."

That is All Blacks Sevens fitness and conditioning coach Mark Harvey's summation of what the players go through at their weekly sessions with New Zealand's undefeated MMA welterweight and middleweight pro title holder, Kelvin "Crazy Horse" Joseph.

Harvey instigated the sessions after seeing the benefits from using MMA trainers when he was with the Blues in Auckland. With the All Blacks Sevens programme now based at the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance at Blake Park, he wanted a locally-based MMA trainer.

Four sessions into the dynamic programme with Joseph the improvements and benefits are clearly evident.


"What I am liking is that everything here we can apply and transfer to the field, whether it's mental, physical, the way we move. I am also liking it is a different work space," Harvey said.

"The boys walk in here and respect it and also they know what Kelvin has done. They get up for it even though they are tired at the end of the week. They know it is going to be tough but it is a good way to finish."

Joseph is loving the opportunity to work with the sevens players.

"I am trying to give them a perspective from the mixed martial arts point of view, the conditioning, the strength, working on angles, techniques that we use to take an opponent down to the ground with," he said.

"These guys are incredible athletes and have an understanding of safety and body mechanics. They learn things incredibly fast, pick up things so well and are just a pleasure to work with. I am looking forward to working with them more and more in the future now they are based in Tauranga."

Team captain Scott Curry said the training put more emphasis on shoulders, forearms and arms.

"There are a lot of body positions and things like grappling that transfer from MMA into rugby. It has been good but it has been tough. For us as players it is good to have something slightly different in our training week," Curry said.

"We have not done stuff like this before so it keeps it fresh. For new boys it has almost been like an induction coming into the Hybrid MMA training with Kelvin."

All Blacks Sevens head coach Clark Laidlaw sees more than just physical benefits to be gained from the training with Joseph.

"It is more than just conditioning. There is some mental stuff too. We want our boys to learn new skills and doing different things shows us which players can take on information when they are tired, which is an important trait you need to be a good rugby player," Laidlaw said.

"We do a lot of running during the week so a lot of the boys' legs are a bit shot by Friday, so this is a good way to train hard physically but off their feet. For us it is a great way to watch the boys take on a new skill, which we think is very important."