turning japanese

'I try to email or text Joe at four o'clock in the morning to pay him back!'

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek has been enjoying his new role with Japanese club NEC Green Rockets.

Murray Kinsella reports from Surfers Paradise

JUST OVER TWO months into his Japanese adventure, Greg Feek has figured out how to turn the tables on Joe Schmidt.

The Ireland scrum specialist is now also an assistant coach with Top League side NEC Green Rockets, combining his new role in Japan with his international duties through until the completion of the 2019 World Cup.

Greg Feek and Joe Schmidt Feek has been an important part of Schmidt's coaching team. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

While the rest of Schmidt’s assistants – Richie Murphy, Andy Farrell and Simon Easterby – extended their contracts into 2020, Feek’s deal expires next year.

The New Zealander has been an integral part of the Ireland set-up since joining full-time in 2014, having previously worked under Schmidt at Leinster. Feek has had a major impact on Irish scrummaging, with the dark day of Twickenham in 2012 a distant memory.

Feek arrived in Australia from Japan on Monday of this week, linking up with his fellow Ireland coaches and relishing a return to working with a world-class squad.

Now based in the city of Abiko in Japan, Feek says his role with Ireland hasn’t altered all that much.

“I won’t be there [in Ireland] full-time but it won’t change too much,” said Feek at their team base in the Royal Pines Resort today.

“The provinces do a great job, the communication is pretty straightforward. Most people have some sort of app to stay in touch, it’s just a matter of making sure you’re using the right one! Apart from that, we’ve got good relationships.

“I’ve known Joe long enough that I can almost predict when he’s going to call me, so I’ll email or text him first. I try and do that at four o’clock in the morning to pay him back for some of the emails he’s sent me at that time!

“We all get on really well together in the coaching group, we have some good fun, and I was really looking forward to catching up with the lads again, not just the players.”

Ireland is his sole focus over the next three weeks but Feek has been enjoying his new life in Japan ahead of the start of the Top League at the end of August.

Greg Feek during training Feek during Ireland's training session today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s been great, I’m getting my head around it,” said Feek. “It’s always part of the challenge adapting to cultures and that but I’ve enjoyed it.

“It was more of a family-first sort of thing, getting the wife home [to New Zealand] and then from that, I scratched my head and then this opportunity literally came up within weeks and it was a progression for my coaching as well, and a lot of benefits around that.

“I felt that it fitted with what’s happening next year, it allowed me to stay on with the Irish team to the World Cup, so in terms of personal development and staying in the game, which is always a challenge as a coach, I just thought I’d take it and go with it.”

Having caught up with his mates yesterday, Feek was straight into work with Ireland today as they went through analysis in the morning and trained hard on the pitch at Royal Pines in the afternoon.

Ireland are favourites ahead of the series, coming off the back of a Grand Slam as they are, but Feek knows that they will face three ferocious battles.

“A lot of the Leinster guys have had Michael Cheika as a coach and they know that he drives them pretty hard in terms of the physical side of the game,” said Feek.

“You know they’re going to come out and try to win some of those physical confrontations, so you’ve got that and you’ve got some massively X-factor players who can turn over the ball.

“If you don’t look after it, it could be seven points. So, yeah, there’s an expectation there that it’s game where you’ve got to be clinical in what you do. Entry points into a Test match could be ill-discipline or a dropped pass that allows them back in.

“So, it’s probably one of the things we’ve been driving – to limit our mistakes and stay in the game that way.”

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