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Ireland shake off the travel and get serious about Wallabies challenge

Careful planning has helped Ireland to beat the effects of jet lag in Australia.

Murray Kinsella reports from Surfers Paradise

JAMES RYAN AND some of his Ireland team-mates spent a chunk of yesterday’s down day on the Gold Coast at the Wet’n'Wild water park but today was a more serious affair as Joe Schmidt’s men prepare for this weekend’s rough and tumble with the Wallabies.

The tourists had their first on-pitch squad training session of the week on Tuesday afternoon local time at their luxurious team base in the Royal Pines Resort, also home to three 18-hole combination golf courses and host to the Australian PGA Championship.

James Ryan James Ryan are Ireland's team base on the Gold Coast. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Royal Pines has a pristine rugby pitch alongside the accommodation, providing the perfect digs for Ireland’s first few days in Australia before they move into Brisbane on Thursday.

Ireland assistant coach Greg Feek said all 32 members of the playing group were fit and would take part in training today ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Wallabies in Suncorp Stadium.

“We’re looking pretty good at the moment,” said Feek. “This is probably our biggest day since the tour started so hopefully we get through it and we know where we’re at.

“You couldn’t time it better in terms of turning up here when the weather’s good. It does help waking up with a bit of heat, big yellow’s in the sky and it does help with adapting in.

“Boys were up early and the body clocks will start to kick in, that’s all part of our preparation for the Test as well.”

Second row Ryan explained that jet lag hadn’t been a major issue for himself and room-mate Dan Leavy.

And while some players have been waking up intermittently during the night, Ireland’s planning in this area – led by strength and conditioning coach Jason Cowman – appears to have paid off.

Melatonin supplements, special blue-light blocking glasses, and restrictions on when players could sleep proved to be helpful as Ireland did their long-haul travel in two groups.

“We had a strategy in place to combat the jet lag as much as we could,” said Ryan. “I was in the first group and on the first flight, we were told to only sleep for 90 minutes but then on the second flight we could sleep as much as we wanted.

James Ryan Ryan hasn't faced any serious jet lag. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Once we got here, we had to stay awake. We got here at 6.30am [on Saturday] so we had to stay awake for the whole day, which was tough, but then I slept pretty well that night.”

Yesterday’s outings to the water park and jet-skiing allowed the players to ease into the week and while Wednesday is another down day – Ryan plans to visit a local wildlife park to see the koalas – the focus is very much now on performing on Saturday.

“They’re the last team that’s beaten the All Blacks, they beat them in the last game in Suncorp Stadium, so we’re expecting an incredibly tough Test match,” said Ryan of the Wallabies. “We will be tested and we’re excited but aware of the threat that they pose.

“Like every good Aussie team, they like to play with the ball in hand a lot. They’ve got some serious outside backs and guys in the centre, guys like Kurtley Beale, Tevita Kuridrani, Marika Koroibete, Israel Folau.

“If they get front-foot, they’ll be really hard to stop so there’s plenty of talent there in the backline that we’re going to have to do our best to shut down.”

There are fine players up front for the Wallabies too, with Ryan picking out the “ball-playing props” Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu, second row Adam Coleman and the exciting young lock Izack Rodda as particularly impressive.

There is also the dual threat of Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the back row, the Brumbies flanker posing as great a breakdown threat as ever to Ireland.

“It’s a collective effort,” said Ryan of dealing with the Wallaby jackal. “We talk about Pocock being very good over the ball, but Hooper is very good over the ball, Scott Sio, Kepu is another big man.

“It’s not just one threat, there’s a variety of them and we’ve spoken about us being very aggressive in that area and removing any threats. It’s certainly a target for us this week.”

Tadhg Beirne Tadhg Beirne adds an increased breakdown threat to Ireland's squad. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In terms of Ireland’s own qualities at the breakdown, the presence of Tadhg Beirne should add plenty.

The Munster-bound Kildare man has played lots of his rugby in the second row but also provides an intriguing option for Schmidt at blindside flanker.

“He’s a real athlete, he’s incredibly good over the ball but also his handling skills, his ball-carrying, his work rate,” said Ryan. “They’re all top class so he’s a brilliant addition to the squad.”

Beirne and Leinster out-half Ross Byrne are the only new faces in this Ireland squad and their plan is to continue where they left off with the Grand Slam.

“I think we’re in a good place at the moment,” said Ryan. “We had a successful Six Nations and we’re excited to build on that and see where it takes us.

“It’s a massive test playing against Australia in their backyard so it will be a good barometer of where they’re at.”

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Murray Kinsella

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