‘Down Day’ for the Irish team in Melbourne began with a training session at the Melbourne Girls College conducted by forwards coach Niall O’Donovan.
As is the custom, yesterday’s designated down day for Ireland’s World Cup rugby squad began with a work out! Thursday dawned with forwards coach Niall O’Donovan bringing his troops to the Melbourne Girls College where the spacious basketball arena aped
the conditions under which Ireland will play below a closed roof at the Telstra Stadium against France in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
A key feature of Ireland’s success so far has been at the line out, where O’Donovan’s astute coaching has resulted in Paul O’Connell, Malcolm O’Kelly
and Co. defeating their opposites and giving Ireland a critical edge.
The upshot is that O’Connell, who celebrated his 24th birthday earlier in the tournament, is being heralded as the young line out star of the World Cup.
O’Donovan’s contribution as forwards’ coach and specialist line out
tactician is gaining widespread recognition, adding to the general sense of acceptance that Ireland, as a world force, are being afforded.
After a one-hour session – while the backs held a meeting at their down town hotel under the direction of assistant coach Declan Kidney – it was a
day at leisure for the Irish squad members.
Largely speaking it was a day of R&R for the 22 man squad
involved in the match against France, while some of those not directly concerned in the game enjoyed some horse racing on Ladies Day at the Melbourne Cup
Ireland also did some training indoors in their build up to the Australian match last Saturday when they demonstrated that playing under a closed roof did not stifle their style.
Answering a question about whether the firm footing and still conditions under the Telstra Dome would give France the advantage, Ireland coach Eddie
O’Sullivan said that his team had the ball skills to take on the best. In the past, he said, the weather had been the great equaliser between Ireland and the more flamboyant teams.
We’ve been trying to shake off the tag of being a monsoon rugby team O’Sullivan said. The rugby we played last Saturday night was as good as Australia played and they’re a top of the ground team.