5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
Members of the Irish Senior and A squads are having a cold start to the season as they perform part of their preseason training in the chilly surrounds of the cryotherapy chamber in Spala, Poland.
The virtues of the high performance facility in Spala are well known, with the camp avoiding any distraction for the players, situated deep in a picturesque forest miles from civilisation. An Ireland senior national squad first went there in 2001 for 21 days, but in subsequent years visits have been reduced to fit in with the preseason training for the Ireland players.
The training facilities include swimming pools, a full sized indoor athletics arena with a reduced impact surface; power and weight-lifting facilities, an expanse that would be bigger than half the size of Lansdowne Road, an outdoor running track and a rugby pitch.
It also has the now famous cryotherapy facility which is basically a very large freezing chamber that speeds up the recovery from the fatigue of training.
The IRFU National Fitness Director Liam Hennessy said: "After a physical session, players would go into the chamber set at minus 60 degrees Celsius before spending between two and three minutes in the main chamber itself where the temperature ranges from minus 125 degrees Celsius to minus 140 degrees Celsius. The cold penetrates so deep, it's a massive hit. The players come out almost in a state of euphoria, happy just to be out.
In essence the cryotherapy chamber allows players to train harder, allowing them to get through more physical training and give them a better preparation for the season.
The players are in close proximity to other sportsmen and women from varied sporting disciplines including wrestling and athletics. It is a unique atmosphere that is focused entirely on training.
The Irish players have been regular visitors to the Spala facility, most famously in 2005 when both Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy flew out during the RBS Six Nations in a bid to recover from hamstring injuries they both picked up in Ireland's opening match against Italy.
Both of the players missed the game against Scotland in that championship, but O'Driscoll made the quicker recovery and returned for the game against England in Lansdowne Road, making it with the vital winning score.