Click here for photos of the Ireland squad’s training session on the back pitch at Auckland’s Eden Park on Sunday.
Pictured above: The Irish squad go through their paces on the back pitch at Eden Park in Auckland. Coach Eddie O’Sullivan will announce his team for the first Test against the All Blacks (Hamilton) around midday (New Zealand time) on Tuesday.
The Irish squad will have four more training sessions during the week – including the Captain’s Run – before a transfer from their Auckland base to Hamilton on Friday afternoon. Ronan O’Gara and Ireland’s kickers will also get a chance to familarise themselves with the surroundings of the Waikato Stadium on Friday. The first Test kicks off in Hamilton at 8.35am (Irish time) next Saturday – there will be live TV coverage on Sky Sports 2. IrishRugby.ie will been running a live Match Tracker.
The Irish players ease their way into training after a long flight Down Under. Next weekend’s first Test will mark Ireland’s first outing at the Waikato Stadium. The men in green’s previous tour visits have seen them play at Wellington’s Athletic Park (in 1976 and 1992), Dunedin’s Carisbrook venue – also known as ‘the House of Pain’ (in 1992 and 2002) and Eden Park in Auckland (in 2002).
Ireland also famously met the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg during the 1995 World Cup. Dublin’s Lansdowne Road has played host to 12 Test matches between Ireland and New Zealand since 1905, including last November’s 45-7 defeat for O’Sullivan’s side.
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Paul O’Connell all earned game-time during the Lions’ 19-13 defeat by the New Zealand Maori at the Waikato Stadium last June. The capacity for Saturday’s first Test will be just under 30,000 with a temporary stand (4,700 seats) put in place to bolster the attendance.
Ireland lock Donncha O’Callaghan can surely hear Micheal O’Muircheartaigh commentating in his head as he throws a hand pass. Sunday’s session included a little down time for the players with a Gaelic football match and a tension-filled penalty shoot out, with a nod to the soccer World Cup in Germany.
Andrew Trimble, the youngest member of the touring squad at 21, shows off his Gaelic football skills as he takes a high ball ahead of his Ulster team mate Rory Best.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**