'Five is very special' - Schmidt's squad catch up on All-Ireland final in Japan

Joe Schmidt’s squad watched the game first thing this morning in their team room.

PHONES WERE TURNED off in Ireland’s hotel last night and mentions of the result of the All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Kerry were banned until the game had been screened in the team room first thing this morning.

The decider from Croke Park started at 2am Japanese time on Sunday morning, meaning Joe Schmidt’s players – with many Dubs among them – were mostly fast asleep.

luke-mcgrath Ireland scrum-half Luke McGrath in Chiba. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

A large number of the Irish players gathered in their team room in Chiba after breakfast this morning and the game was put onto the projector screen so they could watch it as-live, although some of Schmidt’s men were dragged away for media commitments.

“The game is actually on in the team room right now, a lot of the lads had their phones off last night,” explained scrum-half Luke McGrath, sitting alongside fellow Dublin man Andrew Conway.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know the result right now, so I’d keep that quiet!”

McGrath had checked the result, though, meaning it wasn’t up to the traveling Irish journalists to break news of Dublin’s five-in-a-row to him

“Our head physio, Colm Fuller, is from Kerry so I’m sure the lads will know the result when they see him walking around,” said McGrath. 

“It’s an unbelievable achievement from Dublin. To do five is very special.”

For the Dubs in Ireland’s squad, it was a perfect start to a good day in Japan. While everyone in Ireland’s squad had sympathy for the unfortunate Robbie Henshaw, who had to undergo a scan on his hamstring injury, most of the players were let loose into Tokyo this afternoon.

“We’ll get a taste of what that’s like,” said McGrath earlier. “People here are so friendly and it’s a great place to visit, so it’s important we have time to switch off. Lads will do that today and then back into training tomorrow.”

Getting a sense of the Japanese culture is an important part of this trip, but Ireland are here to win rugby games, starting with their opener against Scotland in Yokohama next Sunday.

tadhg-beirne-cian-healy-and-niall-scannell Ireland trained in Ichihara yesterday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Conway said that finally being on the ground in Japan has made things very real.

“It’s been a long time coming, a long three months of giving everything to get in the squad,” said the Munster man.

“Once you get over here, you realise it’s in front of you and it’s happening. We got our first training session in yesterday and we’ve got Scotland up first. We’re buzzing for that.”

With Keith Earls not a certainty to feature against the Scots, Conway is in contention to be involved in Ireland’s opener, while McGrath will be selected as one of only two scrum-halves in Joe Schmidt’s 31-man squad.

Conor Murray is the expected starter at nine, but McGrath is likely to be involved in every Ireland game in the tournament, although Joey Carbery is providing cover at scrum-half too.

“With just two scrum-halves I feel extremely lucky to be here, I’m delighted,” said McGrath.

“Joey has been in my ear a bit, his pass is looking pretty good at the moment. He’s such a skillful player that I’m sure if he was called upon, he’d be able to do it.”

The weather in Japan has been at the centre of many conversations, with the heat rising today after two relatively cool days upon Ireland’s arrival.

Schmidt is expecting heat and rain in Yokohama next weekend, but McGrath hopes the conditions will allow a fast-paced game.

andrew-conway Andrew Conway will be in contention for a spot next weekend. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Heat would usually lead to a high tempo and that’s what we’re hoping for. Scotland will bring that high tempo, playing from everywhere and they love the quick throw-ins, the quick taps, so that’s what we’re expecting.

“With the humidity, the sweat does get on the ball and it’s quite hard to handle at times. But we trained all summer trying to implement that humidity in training, wearing sweat vests in pre-season and things like that to help us with the variables.

“Hopefully, it will lead to a high-tempo game but it will be a bit different than what we’re used to.”

- This article was updated at 3.02am on 16 September to correct ‘Dublin native’ to ‘Dublin man’.

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