BOURNEMOUTH head coach Will Croker revealed he had recruited a sports psychologist in a bid to give Lions an added mental edge.

The club’s director of rugby was recommended the services of psychology graduate Lewis Hawkins.

With Lions’ search for a play-off spot in South West Premier set to go down to the wire, Croker insisted he was fascinated to see the improvements in some of his players’ mindsets.

Speaking about how Hawkins got on board, he said: “My former strength and conditioning coach when I was at Basingstoke, Richard Cheetham, is a professor of sport at Winchester University.

“He does a lot of work with the RFU and he recommended Lewis. He already has a psychology degree and is now doing a masters in sports psychology.

“Richard suggested it would be a really good thing for him to work with us.

“We have him working with four or five of the players on a one-to-one basis, just listening to their feelings before the game and what mentally stimulates them in terms of their preparation.

“We have utilised it for certain players and it seems to be working a treat.”

The likes of Dave McDonald, Alex Everett-Bolter and Harry Davis have analysed the psychological aspects of their game, as well as fly-half Johnny O’Hehir, who recently made his league debut for the first team.

“Johnny was playing for the seconds and had missed a couple of kicks. One of the opposition supporters was giving him a really hard time on the side of the pitch,” added Croker.

“It was interesting, he said he was able to channel that anger he felt towards the performance and ended up having a great game, which is why he ended up in the first team.

“Chatting to Lewis in the week, he said we needed to find that trigger and assess how Johnny could replicate that without someone standing there giving him a hard time.

“The feedback has been excellent. It’s something I do find fascinating and I’d like to do a lot more of it.”

Lions, who are second in the table, make the trip to bottom side Hornets on Saturday.

They recorded nine tries while sealing a 59-0 home triumph when the teams met in November. Scrum-half Sam Hardcastle touched down on four occasions.