Picturedabove: Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan surveys the scene at St. Gerard'sSchool in Bray as his players tune up for Saturday's Guinness AutumnTest against South Africa.
TheIrish 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'mmost disappointed when we lose and play badly. I want the team to playwell. Our history against South Africa isn't the best, but I think wecan 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 (theIreland captain this time last year in their Autumn Test opener againstNew Zealand) for this weekend's game. He will try to reward the Irishmanagement for their support with another abrasive display againstSouth 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 sessionis a well-regimented affair. The Irish squad have a rest day today(Wednesday) before returning to training tomorrow and transferringhotels. Friday will see the Captain's Run take place at Lansdowne Road, where Ireland's kickers will also practice session.
Munster hooker Frankie Sheahan willbe on the replacements bench on Saturday after recovering fully fromthe neck injury which almost signalled the end of his playing careerlast season.
If he gets on to replace Rory Best, the30-year-old Sheahan will be making his 25th appearance for Ireland andfirst since the second Test win over Japan in June 2005.
Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan hasnever started four consecutive internationals for Ireland, but he will
The Corkman started all three of the 2005 Autumn internationals, butwas squeezed out of contention for the majority of the 2006 RBS 6Nations by Leinster's Malcolm O'Kelly - O'Callaghan'sone start came against Wales. With O'Kelly out injured, he made themost of the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia, figuring in allthree 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, hasimpressed so far for Munster in this season's Heineken Cup and deserveshis place alongside Kieran Lewisof 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 Ido naturally. There's nothing better for a player than when the coachesjust says to you: 'Do what you do."
Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan sung the praises of Ulster hooker Rory Best atTuesday's press conference. He admitted: "Rory is a very skilfulplayer. He's has a very high work-rate. He's a ball player and adistributor.
"It's always very good to have a player like that, who's good out ofcontact. He's very good at ruck-time. He's throwing very solid - he'sjust an all-round good footballer. His form has been excellent over thepast two seasons, to be fair to him."
**All photos by Donall Farmer of Inpho Photography**
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