Click here for photos of the Ireland squad’s training session at the Auckland Grammar School on Tuesday.
Pictured above: Ulster centre/winger Andrew Trimble takes on some water during Tuesday’s training stint in Auckland.
Nicknamed ‘Arnie’ because of his chiselled features, Trimble first got hooked on rugby when, aged just six, he was taken to watch the local Coleraine team play by his father Maurice. A Theology student, Trimble spent two weeks of last summer doing missionary work in South Africa.
Coming to New Zealand as Triple Crown champions and with a side dotted with Heineken Cup winners, Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll is encouraged by the confident and well-prepared squad that surrounds him this week.
He said: “I’m excited being around guys who are so confident at the moment. We feel as though when we click together as a team we can be very hard to beat. When you put all that together you realise it is a good opportunity for us to come down to New Zealand.
“It’s better to come here with good preparation than on the back of a poor Six Nations campaign.”
Reliving the drama of his county’s All-Ireland hurling title win in 1996, Wexford man Gordon D’Arcy shows off his skills with a hurl and sliotar.
Eoin Kelly eat your heart out – Tipperary native Denis Leamy could be in training for the Munster SHC final on June 25, but with a family background in rugby and his schooling in Rockwell, there was only ever going to be one career path for the Munster back rower.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner last year, he explained: “With the likes of Nicky English and Pax Fox being the main men in the locality, we always looked up to them and wanted to be like them. I hurled with Boherlahan-Dualla and I really, really liked the hurling, but during the winter, my dad and uncle, both of whom played rugby with Cashel, brought me along to play in the juvenile section and as time went on, the rugby began to suit me more because I was physically bigger than most of the guys.
“Once I went to school in Rockwell, it was only natural for me to focus on rugby.”
Munster and Ireland lock Paul O’Connell answers questions from reporters on Tuesday. Asked about the relatives merits of the Irish pack, which contains seven Munster men for Saturday’s Test match, he said: “Our scrum has been very good.
“We’re not hosing teams off the ball, but we have a very good scrum that gives us a good platform. Sometimes people overlook that – you have to look for something to criticise – but I think our scrum has been very good.”
Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara participates in an interview for New Zealand television. O’Gara believes Ireland can improve on their RBS 6 Nations showing and really put it up to the hosts at the weekend. He reckoned: “We sort of went through the Six Nations in third gear. We have to and can improve on that. If we can click, there should be some exciting times ahead.”
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**