Click here for photos of the Ireland squad going through their paces at training at Bray's St. Gerard's School.
Pictured above: Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan surveys the scene at St. Gerard's School in Bray as his players tune up for Saturday's Guinness Autumn Test against South Africa.
The Irish have three matches to contend with over the next three weekends, and the Corkman is hoping his charges can maintain a high level of performance through the Series.
He said: "We need three good performances. I'm most disappointed when we lose and play badly. I want the team to play well. Our history against South Africa isn't the best, but I think we can beat them if we play well.
"Hopefully we'll get three big performances while looking at other options to expand our squad. Three wins would be great."
Ulster's Neil Best who has got the nod ahead of the fit-again Simon Easterby (the Ireland captain this time last year in their Autumn Test opener against New Zealand) for this weekend's game. He will try to reward the Irish management for their support with another abrasive display against South Africa.
Best, 27, is a busy man both on and off the field. He is currently studying for a certificate in Financial Planning with the CRN Financial Group.
It looks a little chaotic but an Ireland training session is a well-regimented affair. The Irish squad have a rest day today (Wednesday) before returning to training tomorrow and transferring hotels. Friday will see the Captain's Run take place at Lansdowne Road, where Ireland's kickers will also practice session.
Munster hooker Frankie Sheahan will be on the replacements bench on Saturday after recovering fully from the neck injury which almost signalled the end of his playing career last season.
If he gets on to replace Rory Best, the 30-year-old Sheahan will be making his 25th appearance for Ireland and first since the second Test win over Japan in June 2005.
Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan has never started four consecutive internationals for Ireland, but he will get that chance on Saturday when he dons the number 4 jersey against the Springboks.
The Corkman started all three of the 2005 Autumn internationals, but was squeezed out of contention for the majority of the 2006 RBS 6 Nations by Leinster's Malcolm O'Kelly - O'Callaghan's one start came against Wales. With O'Kelly out injured, he made the most of the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia, figuring in all three Tests in June.
Three players who look to have very bright futures in Irish rugby - Ulster duo Neil Best and Andrew Trimble with Munster centre Barry Murphy.
Murphy, after making his comeback from a broken leg, has impressed so far for Munster in this season's Heineken Cup and deserves his place alongside Kieran Lewis of Leinster in the Ireland 'A' team's midfield for next week's 'A' international against Australia (Thomond Park, kick-off 7.30pm).
Members of the Irish senior and 'A' squads run through some warm-up exercises together at St. Gerard's. Leinster centre Gordon D'Arcy (far left) is eagerly awaiting the start of the Test season.
He said, in a recent interview: "I've a big year ahead of me. I'm trying to learn as much as possible off Felipe (Contepomi) and Rog (Ronan O'Gara), trying to learn this role as 'the new 12.' But I don't want to change my game too much, either.
"Eddie's great for me and my confidence. He just wants me to do what I do naturally. There's nothing better for a player than when the coaches just says to you: 'Do what you do."
Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan sung the praises of Ulster hooker Rory Best at Tuesday's press conference. He admitted: "Rory is a very skilful player. He's has a very high work-rate. He's a ball player and a distributor.
"It's always very good to have a player like that, who's good out of contact. He's very good at ruck-time. He's throwing very solid - he's just an all-round good footballer. His form has been excellent over the past two seasons, to be fair to him."
**All photos by Donall Farmer of Inpho Photography**
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