'Energy is really the right word' as Ireland seek fresh start from new base

Ireland get their first chance to right a few World Cup wrongs this weekend.

THEY STILL WALK the salubrious halls of Carton House by night, but in daylight hours they now work in Abbottstown’s Sports Campus.

And after returning from training camp in Portugal this week, the new Ireland captain sat down with his new attack coach Mike Catt in all an all-new setting.

jonathon-sexton Sexton and Catt in the Indoor Arena today. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

2020, new decade, a fresh start under Andy Farrell and time only for looking forward.

And yet the World Cup woe still haunts them. If only in the shape of nine Japanese journalists who landed in Dublin 15 to pick up the trail of the team who crumbled to bring about the Brave Blossoms’ finest hour.

Jonathan Sexton looked on with bemusement when the question came in a foreign tongue, he was glad to hear the translator swiftly follow with a query about how he feels about the captaincy.

“It’s definitely been a different build-up for me, there’s a lot of extra things that go with being the captain but I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly,” says the out-half.

“It has been a little bit of extra work but I’ve enjoyed it. I think all the other guys in the leadership group have enjoyed it.

“We’ve built nicely up to this point, but the thing that we can learn from the World Cup is that it counts for nothing really. When Saturday comes you can have a brilliant week’s prep with a very special camp and it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Jordan Larmour, meanwhile, was far less inclined to peer over his shoulder at 2019 than his skipper. The old adage that you’re only as good your last game isn’t being reached for in these pristine environs.

“Maybe in the back of some lads’ heads (they want to get back on the field to right wrongs), but every time you get to put on the green jersey it’s a special moment,” Larmour says.

“Getting to run out in front of 50,000 people and family and friends. It’s a special day, so you’ve got to cherish them and take it with both hands.

The World Cup’s so long ago, we should probably stop talking about it at this stage.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend. We’ve taken a lot from the World Cup. Hopefully some of the learnings we take, we can rectify them this weekend. We’re just looking forward to this Saturday, that’s where our focus is.”

Larmour adds: “We haven’t really talked about the World Cup. We did the review and all that. It’s just focusing on the present moment and what we have coming up now, you can’t be dwelling on the past. All our focus is on Scotland this weekend and the Six Nations.”

Of course it’s understandable that a professional athlete only wants to speak about the hurdle ahead rather than the ones stumbled upon before. But after Andy Farrell passed up the chance to make statement selections in his very first XV as a Test head coach, this Ireland team will be acutely aware of the need to deliver a refreshing performance to blow out the lingering whiff of disappointment after yet another quarter-final exit.

jordan-larmour Ireland training on the indoor pitch in Abbottstown today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It feels new,” says Sexton, “with the new coaches, the way we’ve set the week is totally different in terms of how we run things is totally different. So, yeah, it’s been new, it’s been fresh and it’s been good.

“The fresh faces have come in and given us a lot of energy and brought a real… energy is really the right word [to describe the group].”

The work environment can only feed those energy levels. No opportunity to lapse into tired routine or skulk from bedroom to team room to training ground. The squad move wholesale to Abbottstown with its new state of the art gym, indoor and outdoor pitches and the IRFU’s analysis and meeting rooms all close at hand.

“Have you been around to see the facilities?” Came the pointed response from Sexton when asked if new digs were a help.

“It’s incredible. The indoor pitch, the gym, the meeting rooms, everything is top quality.

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“It’s good to stay in Carton and we do a little bit there and then we come out here early in the morning, spend our days here and then back to Carton. So we’ve got the best of both worlds at the moment.”

Although, with the makeup of the coaching ticket, the squad will not wish to get too comfortable. Hard edge and aggression will be the order of the day under Farrell. Having the odd lingering point to prove from left over from the World Cup may even crank the intensity up a notch or two further this weekend.

“Obviously the basics, the fundamentals of the game never change and you need to have that physicality and sort of aggressive mindset. We need to bring that at the weekend.

“I know a lot has been made (by Brian O’Driscoll) about ‘do we have a dog’ in the team and stuff like that, but in the modern game, you just need guys who are willing to work hard.

“You have to have that intent… but hopefully we’ll show a little bit of that at the weekend.”

A little that would go a long way towards helping this group put Japan behind them.

The big Six Nations preview with Andy Dunne, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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