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Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 12 July, 2020

Ireland working hard in Portugal before England offer step up in intensity

Joe Schmidt’s men have been at The Campus since last Wednesday.

Murray Kinsella reports from Portugal

WHILE IRELAND’S WIN over Italy two weekends felt like a tentative first World Cup warm-up, England’s back-to-back clashes with Wales over the past fortnight have been thoroughly deserving of Test match status.

A view of training Ireland at training in The Campus in Portugal. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It means that Joe Schmidt’s side will look to deliver a notable step up in intensity and physicality this Saturday as they visit Twickenham to take on Eddie Jones’ men, who very much look like being World Cup contenders.

Ireland are likely to have several of their key men back in action as they aim to build momentum with a strong performance in London, as well as getting crucial minutes into legs. 

We are now just 34 days from Ireland’s Pool A opener against Scotland in Yokohama, with Schmidt and his side currently training hard under the sun at The Campus, a high-performance facility in Quinta do Lago, a resort in the Algarve region of Portugal.

Their training sessions have been sweaty affairs since arriving last Wednesday, with the absence of a match last weekend allowing Schmidt to push his players hard on Saturday, as highly-regarded S&C coach Jason Cowman and his assistant Ciaran Ruddock led on many drills.

This is not Ireland’s first visit to a facility that is becoming more and more popular with high-profile teams, with Schmidt having also brought his squad to this neck of the woods before the Six Nations. 

“It’s a good opportunity to work hard in some fairly hot conditions,” said Ireland captain Rory Best of the trip.

Bundee Aki and Rory Best Bundee Aki and Rory Best share a laugh. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The down days are brilliant, just to get away.  Some boys go to the beach and some play golf, some will just hang around.

“That’s the sort of stuff that’s good, just to spend a bit more time… it’s just to get away from the distractions of other things.

“When you’ve a down day in Ireland, you get a little bit disjointed whereas when we’re all away together, we’ll all have a down day together – we’ll probably go out for dinner certainly in a couple of big groups if not the entire group together.

“It’s something you take for granted because everyone knows each other so well through the provincial set-ups and it’s a reasonably established and settled squad. You can take for granted sometimes that you need to spend a bit of time together and find out what’s going on, find out how CJ [Stander] got on at the birth of his child and congratulate him.

“The rumours are he fainted from it all but I’m not sure they’re true! Just little silly things like that, to chat about anything other than rugby and spending time getting to know people.”

Joe Schmidt Schmidt at training on Monday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland train on the pitch as a squad again today, before another session on Thursday ahead of their afternoon flight to London. 

Schmidt’s selection for the England encounter will be interesting, particularly with the likes of Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and captain Best surely itching for a hit-out after getting through the slog of pre-season training. The worry of injuries always exist in these warm-up games, but Ireland need to get their central figures up and running. 

With back-to-back games against Wales – first in Cardiff and then in Dublin – to come thereafter, Ireland’s flight out to Japan will be upon them before they know it.

For that reason, the players will enjoy their final down day in Portugal on Wednesday before rolling up their sleeves for what is likely to be a decent test in Twickenham. 

The clash with Jones’ charges will certainly give us a better idea of where Ireland stand ahead of the World Cup.

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Murray Kinsella

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