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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Shane Jennings' World Cup diary: part two

The Leinster man is focused on keeping Ireland World Cup dream on track as they prepare for Russia this weekend.

GAME OF INCHES: Weight training in Lake Taupo this week. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LAST WEEK IN the run-up to the Australia game, I played the Pocock role in training.

This World Cup is going to be won by an entire squad not just the first XV and I was more than happy to fill that position.

There was a lot of work on rucking and the breakdown and you can see that was where it was won afterwards. I just tried to mimic the role he plays – which is so important for the Aussies – as best I could. If you give him any time at all he’s going to do real damage.

He didn’t play in the end. Never mind.

Other than that the lads were really pumped and training was sharp.

From a personal point of view the build-up was pretty relaxed. I wasn’t in the first XV unfortunately but during the captain’s run on the Friday, the fitness coach approached me and let me know that Denis Leamy was feeling a little niggle and I was essentially on standby from that point.

So afterwards at the game in Eden Park I went through the warm-up and that whole routine in case Denis was unable to play but that didn’t happen and I watched the game in the stands with the rest of the lads.

It was a long old day as the kick-off was quite late down here. Myself and a few of the lads like Paddy Wallace and Issaac Boss wanted to go out to this town called Otara which we’d heard about; it’s where the film Once Were Warrriors was filmed.

There’s a huge Samoan population there and a great flea market on a Saturday morning so we wanted to see that. We were looking around when word seemed to filter through that one of the Samoan rugby players was around and the place went crazy with people shouting and doing hakas on the street and all sorts.

It wasn’t a bad distraction a few hours before the Aussie game.

We went back then and took it easy and did what you need to do to prepare. Heading to the game later was an experience. We were accompanied by police out-riders as usual and there were crowds from both countries on each side of the bus.

A few of the lads were very vocal beforehand and I said my bit. The emphasis was placed – by lots of lads, not just me – on taking this opportunity, really laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament.

‘I fired off a text to Bryan Cullen’

We all realised that if we wanted to have ambitions for a quarter-final, semi-final or more we needed to make this count. It was make-or-break.

We didn’t get to see Dublin’s win on Sunday unfortunately but I hopped out of the bed the following morning and was straight on the internet to read all about it.

It sounded like an unbelievable game and I was really delighted for them. They’ve had their ups and downs over the years but they deserve the win. And though I know intercounty rivalries are very keenly felt, I think there’s a lot of people all throughout Ireland who are happy this team got there in the end.

I fired off a text to Bryan Cullen, the captain, as he’s someone I’ve met a fair few times down through the years and I was delighted for him. Ive been there enough times when they’ve come out the wrong side of those tight games, and it’s a shame I couldn’t be there this time, but I was delighted to hear the result.

I was rooming with Geordy [Geordan Murphy] last week in Lake Taupo but I’m back in with Paddy [Wallace] again this week now we’ve moved on.

We went white-water rafting since we last spoke and that was great craic. We arrived in Rotorua today and had a nice old day I must say; a few of the lads were out Zorbing I believe but I just took it handy – I went up the road and had a couple of coffees with a few of the lads.

The focus has now turned to Russia of course since and we’ve left the Australia game behind. There’s opportunities for guys to make their mark on Sunday – some guys in the squad haven’t got a run yet, others will hope to come back in. It’s clear that the winner of this tournament will use their entire squad – as we showed, I think – on Saturday.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Russians to be honest. I’m familiar with Vasily Artemiev who was in school at Blackrock and was in Leinster’s academy. But Ive never played against them myself and I’m looking forward to it.

They’ve got a really impressive No 8 who’s kind of in the same mould as Sean O’Brien being abrasive and really powerful. And they’ve a good old set piece so it’ll be an interesting game.

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Catch up with Fergus McFadden’s column>

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Shane Jennings

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