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'We'll probably stay in Ireland for some time. We've become pretty settled there'

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt and his squad are settling in well in Japan.

WHILE IRELAND SLEEPS, Joe Schmidt gives an update on Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring, delivers a weather forecast, and confirms he will continue to live in Ireland after leaving his role as national team head coach following the Rugby World Cup.

Eight hours ahead of those back at home, everything is different in Chiba – a 35km train ride outside Tokyo.

joe-schmidt Joe Schmidt at Ireland training yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt pauses a couple of times during the press conference to allow his words to be translated into Japanese, but the Ireland head coach appears to be in good humour with just a week to go until his team kick-off their World Cup against Scotland in Yokohama.

Wished a belated happy birthday by a Kiwi journalist, 54-year-old Schmidt informs us that he spent 12 September “in a round tin can” as Ireland flew out to Japan. Not ideal celebrations, then, although he added that “hopefully there’s a few gifts that will arrive over the coming weeks.”

That hope has been dented slightly by the injury to Henshaw – who will have a scan on his hamstring today – but there was better news on the injury front for Joey Carbery.

The Munster out-half is set to “train fully with the team” on Monday, putting him firmly in line to feature in the matchday 23 against Scotland.

There is more concern for Keith Earls, however, after the experienced wing limped off in the second half of last weekend’s warm-up win over Wales in Dublin. The 31-year-old has been struggling with tendonitis and still needs to prove his fitness in training over the coming week. 

“Keith will either train Wednesday or Friday, so he’s close as well,” said Schmidt. “It means that apart from Robbie, we’re hopefully not too badly off.”

Ireland have settled into their current base in Chiba well. It’s not the most glamorous area, certainly different to the bright lights of nearby Tokyo, but some of the players will visit the capital today on their afternoon off.

a-general-view-of-training Ireland are training in Ichihara. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt’s men are staying at the same hotel as the Irish football team did before the 2002 World Cup – insert jokes about omens here – and training at the nearby Ichihara Suporeku Park.

“The training facilities are superb, they’ve done a great job and the quality of the pitch surface, the actual temporary gym they’ve put up is fit for purpose, so no complaints there,” said Schmidt.

“It took us 45 minutes to get to the training venue yesterday but no matter where you are that’s going to be part of the equation. It means you make maximum use of those training windows because it is a little bit of a strenuous journey to get to them.

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“We came here because we thought we’d be a little bit out of the way. We like the fact it was quite open and it was an opportunity to sort of transition a little bit before we go right into the heart of where the games are going to be played in Yokohama.”

Rugby-wise, all focus is on Scotland, although Schmidt gave a nod to the quality of Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown’s Japan, with the hosts waiting in Ireland’s second Pool A fixture at the end of a six-day turnaround following the clash with the Scots.

While Ireland were pleased to be greeted with weather that was far less hot and humid than expected on their first few days in Japan, that is already changing today and it’s only expected to get more demanding in the coming week.

“I see the temperature is due to be 32 degrees tomorrow, that’s not really Irish temperatures so that will be a challenge for us in itself,” said Schmidt.

“We’ll see how we adapt and cope with those different conditions. The forecast for Sunday is torrential rain so we’re going to have to be ready for whatever conditions there are on the day.”

joe-schmidt Schmidt rips a pass at Ireland training. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Henshaw’s hammy and the heat, there are certainly plenty of challenges ahead for Ireland and Schmidt, who is now into his final tournament as head coach.

Andy Farrell will take over after the World Cup and Schmidt will relish the prospect of spending some quality time with his family after the madness in Japan.

The Ireland boss confirmed that the Schmidts will be staying put in Ireland after the sad passing of his mother recently.

“We’ll probably stay in Ireland for some time,” said Schmidt. “We’ve become pretty settled there.

“A big motivator for me to get back was family and unfortunately we lost our mum recently, so on the back of that we’ll take a bit of a breath and make some decisions beyond that.”

What the future holds for Schmidt beyond taking some time off remains to be seen. For now, he’s all in on this World Cup.

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Murray Kinsella

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