'A real shock to the system' - Joe Schmidt puts Irish stars through 'toughest session' to start World Cup training
Right now, the Irish rugby team are lurking in the long grass, waiting for their moment to arrive.
With Shane Lowry's exploits at Portrush, the rough and tumble of the GAA season and the U-19 soccer team's heroics dominating the landscape, they are content to remain in the shadows for now. However, when September rolls around they'll be the hottest ticket in town.
Not that they've been slacking off as they build towards an era-defining World Cup. From the first day back on June 17, Joe Schmidt ensured the 42-man squad knew they were in for a tough few months ahead of taking on the world.
"The Monday, yeah, that was a real shock to the system all right," Cian Healy said with a wry smile yesterday. "That's possibly been the toughest session we've had. I don't know if it was the shock or the content, but it was certainly a marker to say we weren't coasting into anything.
"Everyone got through it all right, but it was an eye-opener."
While the nuts and bolts of pre-season are familiar, Healy says the subtle tweaks the coaches have introduced make it an improved experience on 2011 and 2015.
"It's still the basic of running and lifting weights and stuff, but this one is probably the best one I've been a part of for looking after lads in the sense of giving people enough down-time and making sure everyone is happy to go to training when we are training," he said.
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"When we get put to work it's hard, it's difficult but you're also getting good rest times and windows off to get out of the hotel and go for coffees and whatever. Get on with each other a bit better, have time together as opposed to just going from training session to meeting to training session."
Healy is enjoying the clean bill of health he's carrying over from his outstanding 2018/'19 campaign.
That's in marked contrast to his first World Cup when he arrived late after suffering an eye injury while he was still in the early stages of recovering from a serious neck problem four years ago and, subsequently, didn't do himself justice.
"I just wasn't as fit as possible and this is probably the fittest I've felt coming into any of them," he said.
"I feel in a pretty good place, I'm trying to put the best foot forward and play as well as possible in the warm-ups, and go full on.
"I was at a completely different fitness level (four years ago). I was 127kgs and not able to truck around like I can now. I mean I could get by, but you don't want to get by in any competition, you want to thrive." Cian Healy was celebrating the launch of Bull's-Eye range of authentic American BBQ sauces