Anthony Foley, who has been brought in as Ireland’s defence coach for the GUINNESS Series, says preparations will not slacken off this week just because the Fiji match is a non-cap international.
An Ireland XV will take on the touring Fijians at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm), with no caps being awarded or IRB World Ranking points on the line.
A number of changes in personnel are expected after a bruising encounter with South Africa, but assistant coach Anthony Foley is expecting high standards from the players in terms of their preparations and approach to the friendly fixture.
“We are preparing like it’s a Test match. It is no different to how we prepared last week – the same meetings, same intensity and when we train this evening we will have the same vigour,” he said.
“Obviously there will be different requirements from different players from their exertions for the weekend.
“The important thing is this is another Test match week for us and we prepare for that and make sure everybody is equipped properly for Fiji.
“They will punish you if you give them an opportunity. Our job for the weekend is to make sure they get no opportunity.”
Fiji will be hurting after falling to a heavy loss to England, who ran in seven tries in last Saturday’s 54-12 triumph at Twickenham.
Foley hinted at more new faces being involved in the game in Limerick, stating that it os ‘the second game of a three-match campaign and you really want to make sure everybody’s spitting fire’.
The former Munster and Ireland captain was left to rue the circumstances that led to the Springboks swooping for the only try of last weekend’s GUINNESS Series opener.
Ruan Pienaar’s decisive touchdown under the posts came after key men Jamie Heaslip (sin-bin) and Cian Healy (injury) were both briefly sidelined.
In highlighting the effectiveness of the South African maul, Foley admitted: “We got ourselves into a little bit of a rut off a kick chase, the ball bounced up into Pienaar’s hands around the midfield.
“They came down the blindside, we gave away a penalty on the touchline that possibly we shouldn’t have given away and from that we got ourselves into what South African teams love.
“They mauled us into the corner twice and then had a quick tap and from that scored under the posts. Now, what can we do better/ You might question the penalty in terms of our actions there, not the referee’s actions, we knew what he was going to penalise us on.
“Getting off the line five metres from the line, making sure they had no momentum. It was working during the game but unfortunately our guards got caught on the side of the ruck and instead of moving forward moved laterally.
“These are the little things you get caught at and Pienaar was very opportunist to get in there.”
Keeping the expansive Fijians in check will be a clear aim this Saturday evening, with Ireland not having held a team try-less since they beat Italy 36-6 in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“Big boys, big men, running hard. Fiji don’t seem to rely on the structured set-piece attack, they’re very comfortable in unstructured play, off the cuff,” added Foley.
“I know that sounds very generic but when you look through their games, how comfortable their second rows are running down the wings, how comfortable they are passing and interchanging, how they don’t need that structured game that maybe us Europeans are more used to…they seem very comfortable.
“I’m not being flippant or whatever, but they do like to throw the ball around and there’s no better team in the world – I sincerely mean that – when they’re allowed to play their game.
“They’re very hard to defend when they’re at that so from our point of view that’s the major threat from them.”