After a few low-key days for jet lag to kick in and life settling in New Zealand, Ireland took things up a notch today with a rigorous training session that took the long journey from Dublin back to whatever tombstones lay behind. shook them.
Orth Harbor Stadium, on the outskirts of Auckland, was the setting as Andy Farrell and his coaches put the players through their paces ahead of a big week.
Much of the 40-man squad trained as Farrell prepares for the opening game against the Māori All Blacks in Hamilton on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s first Test at Eden Park on Saturday.
Players and backroom staff arrived from Ireland on three separate flights, but having been together since the early part of the week, Farrell turned up the intensity before enjoying the team’s day tomorrow, starting Test week.
“We are here, we are happy to be here,” Farrell said. “We’ve had a few days of training and we’re up and running.
“It’s huge. We missed. This group, we should have gone to Australia and Fiji over the years and we have some guys who are on 20 or more caps who have never toured before.
“That’s why it’s so important that we get away together and enjoy each other’s company, but also test ourselves against the best team in the world.”
Despite coming into this difficult tour on the back of a win over New Zealand at Aviva Stadium last November, Farrell remains adamant that the same level of performance won’t be enough to make history by beating the All Blacks for the first time in his own backyard. Time.
“I wouldn’t say confident because every time you wear an Irish shirt there’s always an element of nerves and hope that we can perform and be as good as we were. But really the boys know That this time it’s not going to be good enough,” Farrell warned.
“We know what we’re coming up against. We know it’s a different kettle of fish, Eden Park first and foremost. We know how special that place is to the All Blacks. It’s great for us though .It’s great.
“We want to see ourselves under extreme pressure and how we deal with it so it’s good on all sides.”
Farrell knows exactly what it takes to win in New Zealand, which helped lead the Lions to Test wins in 2017, but he knows equally well how difficult it is in this part of the world .
“It’s incredibly difficult to come here and be successful,” Farrell said.
“Defining what success is different for some people. We have a group of 40 who came out here because we just talked about not touring and the lack of game-time opportunity.
“Some people are playing against the Māori team on Wednesday night and they are vying for a chance to play in the big games and it is no big deal for them so it is a big challenge.
“Then the players are out of their comfort zone, five or six of them backing in a Test match against the All Blacks on Saturday, it doesn’t get more challenging, but at the same time, this is where we want to be. .
“We want to be in a phase where a year or more before the World Cup, we want to know more about ourselves and this is the perfect place to do that.
“There are some people who were involved in 2012, so there are some traces of that tour, but we are very fortunate to have some people who came here with the Lions in 2017. I think it also tells the story of the challenge ahead. .
“I think the moral of the story back home after the Lions series draw was one of success and it was the best tour of these shores, so you can see what kind of test it is for little old Ireland.
“But having said that, there are challenges to make us better, make us stronger and we have to be ready to face those.
“We will be up for the challenge, no doubt. How we go after the game is very important to us because you can’t just sit back and hope that things go well because they probably won’t if You have that kind of mindset. So our mindset is going to be very important.”
Farrell’s men have been ‘welcomed’ to New Zealand by a series of billboards mocking Ireland’s dismal record on Kiwi soil, but Ireland’s boss sees it as a mark of respect.
“We have seen some billboards there, which are very nice,” he smiled.
“Walking through the streets of Auckland, there’s always a back-handed compliment, which is great. That’s what we expect and we love that. We take it on the chin and we move on to the next, right? ?”
Following today’s season, Ireland were joined by students from De La Salle College, located in South Auckland, as several players ran through a series of skill drills, which included a hurley, sliotar and Gaelic football brought from home. .
“We are here to enjoy ourselves, to show that Irish rugby is a community within itself, and we want to spread the word of rugby and be the good guys on the tour,” Farrell said.
“It is important for us to embrace not only the 70 people we have met on the tour but the whole nature of the New Zealand tour.
“So having these kids here today is great for us to understand the history and culture of not only Auckland but New Zealand.”