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'It starts the minute they get back to the dressing room': Recharging Ireland on a 3-day World Cup turnaround

After a massively physical clash with Australia, today was a day for loosening up in the pool and catching up on calories.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND’S WIN OVER Australia last night laid bare the immense physical requirements asked of players to compete at the top of modern women’s international rugby.

And what makes it all the tougher is the fact that, in this tournament, they will have to dust themselves down and do it all over again with just three days to rest, recuperate and ramp the intensity back up to tackle Japan.

It scarcely seems fair to squeeze so many important fixtures on top of one another, but Australia captain Shannon Parry pretty much summed up the mood of every woman playing in the tournament when asked about the unseen test that faces all 12 team in Ireland this month.

“We’d obviously love it to be longer,” said Parry, “play it like the men’s (World Cup) over six weeks with a game every weekend. But everyone’s got the same cards, the same turnaround…”

It is what it is. They’re getting on with it.

To do that though, there’s a certain amount of counter-intuition involved. Recovery must be actively chased rather than passively greeted. Ireland’s strength and conditioning coach Ed Slattery has long had his plan in place for refreshing Tom Tierney’s 28-woman squad in between crunch clashes. And it’s already well under way.

“It literally starts the minute they get back to the dressing room after the game,” Slattery told The42 last month.

“(Nutritionist) Marcus Shortall has posters done up and the girls have all seen them and know how to follow them.

“The minute they come in off the field they’re looking at that: ‘how long did I play for?’ And they have their nutritional strategy for the next 24 hours. That starts with the snacks in the dressing room, the team meal after the game, the breakfast the next morning – it all depends on their game-time.”

Ireland used only four replacements in the excruciatingly tight contest last night, so 11 women will have been on full rations last night and today, while the nine squad members who have yet to put a minute on the board were able to train unhindered today in preparation for matchday two. Everyone else in a squad that reported just “bumps and bruises” in today’s injury report were to make use of UCD’s 50 metre pool.

“The girls who weren’t involved in the game will go to the gym with me and get a bit of a conditioning hit in. The girls who played will go to the pool, then get their breakfast, they’ll weigh in, they’ll give a urine sample to test hydration.

“They’ll have massages after that, and they’ll either have the evening off, or just do a light walk-through – literally, a walk through – just to get them out and moving.”

In a collision sport like rugby, three days is a seriously tight time-frame to turn a team around to go again. In a Six Nations campaign, we would look at a six-day gap between games as a serious disadvantage, so at the World Cup every minute counts.

The second post-match day will bear closer resemblance to a regular training day, but again there are recovery elements slotted in at every possible opportunity.

“There will be at least one recovery aspect of each day, most likely two, just to keep players on top of it. And each day we’ll have time for naps throughout the day. It can happen in competition that players don’t sleep at night, we’ll have time during the day to make sure they get enough sleep.”

“They’ll have ice baths after sessions and then there will be that technology available, the Game Ready – which is ice and compression - or compression leggings. More physio and mobility sessions… then we’re up to the captain’s run, followed by ice baths and it takes us into game day.”

And the cycle begins all over again.


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