Reddan confident Ireland's fitness can reap rewards
Published 02/11/2010 | 05:00
Eoin Reddan's South African experience is different to most of his team-mates'.
As an 18-year-old, the scrum-half packed his bags and headed to Cape Town for 10 weeks to work on his rugby.
Playing for local club Villagers, the Limerick native saw off the competition to line out at No 9 and he saw at first hand the size and scope of rugby in the vast lands of South Africa.
Playing numbers were as huge as the U-21s trying to tackle him, but as he faces into his first ever international against the Springboks on Saturday, the Leinster star will not be daunted based on his experience.
And he believes Ireland can call on their natural levels of fitness over the coming four Tests against southern hemisphere opposition.
"It was great, very enjoyable," he recalled. "It was bit different. I was playing U-21 level and it was a high standard. But I wouldn't say the best players there were better than the players here. There were just far more of them. You went out every week and played. But I wouldn't have thought they were miles ahead at that stage. It was a great experience.
"Some nations are naturally big. Fitness is our strength. If you even look at hurling and football, naturally, I think, that is something we can exploit. As the game speeds up and the longer we play it, I think that suits us.
"We are fit and we can keep going for long periods and that's certainly the way they are refereeing. You can keep the ball for long periods now. Teams' purple patches are becoming a bit longer and 10-point swings can happen very quickly now.
"Fitness is a strength of ours and something we can focus on. The fact that we are a fit team is always an advantage.
"We had a good week's training last week, a few good results in the provinces and the players are in a good mental state, looking forward to a big challenge this week. We're definitely looking forward to taking on the Springboks, yeah."
Reddan has caught the eye even more since Isaac Boss' arrival at Donnybrook in the summer and says he has relished the competition for his place since his New Zealand-born rival -- who dropped out of the 30-man Ireland squad ahead of today's team announcement -- joined from Ulster.
"I don't think anyone was doing cartwheels as a scrum-half (when Boss signed)," he admitted.
"Boss is a good player. It's great to have heavy competition across the board. It's not that you try harder. All of us try as hard as we possibly can. This year, I got a good pre-season in. Last year, I didn't run until the first game of the season.
"There are different elements to that. If you don't play every minute of every week you can focus on different things during the week as well. There are negatives to not playing and there are positives because you can work harder during the week."