The Ireland squad trained at Thomond Park this morning (Friday) and will enjoy some downtime over the weekend before re-assembling in Dublin on Sunday. Ronan O’Gara, sure to be a key figure during the GUINNESS Series 2008, gave us an insight into life in the new national set-up.
This week’s training camp is the second such camp for the Irish squad under Declan Kidney, after their initial get-together in Cork in August.
With the formalities over and Gert Smal (forwards), Alan Gaffney (backs), Les Kiss (defence) and Paul Pook (strength and conditioning) all settled into their roles, the focus is now on the upcoming Test matches against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina.
Agreeing that a fresh impetus has been injected by the new coaching staff, out-half Ronan O’Gara is delighted with how things have started to take shape.
“We’ve had an awful lot of information (at us) and I think, from my point of view, that’s great,” he said.
“It’s just a case that we all need to assemble that information as quickly as possible. The more people making decisions…it makes the job of whoever’s playing (number 10) so much easier.
“We’ve a completely new calling structure. In terms of principles, it’s more along the lines of what we play with the provinces.
“The new coaches have been fantastic. We’re all hugely stimulated and looking forward to what should be good times ahead.
“The pressure will tell in games and it will be up to us to see how we react. We’ll see how we go in the heat of the battle and that will tell a lot,” he added.
Adapting to the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) has not been a problem, according to O’Gara, and all bases – in terms of gameplan and playing the conditions – have been covered in advance of these crucial autumn Tests.
“I don’t think the emphasis on the new rules is that big. You have to adapt, but it boils down to decision making,” explained the Corkman.
“The big rule change I suppose, from a back’s point of view, is (the 22 one) not being allowed to kick the ball out on the full.
“That really challenges the fitness and I think that should hopefully work to our advantage. That’s where you get the mismatches and half-breaks and stuff like that, and just play from them.”
He added: “It’s been cold, it’s been wintry, we’re going into winter rugby.
“We’ve covered all types of rugby this week – so it’ll be important that from next week on we select the type of rugby we want to play depending on the conditions.
“Declan has provided us with numerous gameplan options and that’s been hugely exciting. I’m looking forward to the Tests now. You treat it game to game…get up for that game and move on to your next challenge.”