Saturday 23 June 2018

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Down Under Diary: Sonia says hello

Jonathan Sexton, left, meets Irish Olympic and World Champion athlete Sonia O'Sullivan after an Ireland rugby press conference in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton, left, meets Irish Olympic and World Champion athlete Sonia O'Sullivan after an Ireland rugby press conference in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Sportsfile

Compiled by Rúaidhrí O'Connor

The Irish camp got a visit from a familiar face on Tuesday as Olympic silver medallist and local Melbourne resident Sonia O'Sullivan popped into the team hotel.

The legendary athlete attended the team's press conference and said hello to Joe Schmidt on an unscheduled visit, having also spoken to the team during the 2015 Rugby World Cup alongside a group of Irish sporting heroes including AP McCoy, Niall Quinn, Barry McGuigan and Henry Shefflin.

An Australian citizen, O'Sullivan lives in the southern city for much of the year but visits home frequently and last December she picked up the Irish Independent's Hall of Fame award.

Pocock back in business

After trying his hand at farming the land in Zimbabwe during his year out of professional rugby, David Pocock is back doing what he does best - causing opponents nightmares at the breakdown.

The Australian try-scorer took a year-long hiatus in 2016, returning to action for the Brumbies earlier this season and making his international return against Ireland. In between, he played some rugby in Japan but also spent time farming in his native Africa. It wasn't easy.

"It was challenging," he admitted."It was sort of before the President (Mugabe) resigned, so it was pretty tough going economically. The country was struggling. We were trying to farm, trying to sell tomatoes, no one had money, the markets were not doing well.

"So it was a bit of an eye-opener but it has got a special place in my heart, I love it, I love the land, love the people, and I guess at the end of the day, if you are a Zimbabwean, everyone is a victim in some ways.

"There were the cycles of dispossessions, now it is what you make of it. I am optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe and I think a lot of people, those in Zimbabwe, those living abroad, are also optimistic."

Playing international rugby will be a cinch after his experience.

Quote of the day

"It's gone incredibly quick. I suppose the Lions tour is tough on the body. It's tough on the mind. There's so much travel, playing, high intensity, a lot of pressure. This season has absolutely flown." - Tadhg Furlong reflects on a whirlwind year.

Number of the day

2 Wins for Six Nations teams on tour last weekend, with France losing to New Zealand, Ireland going down to Australia, Italy succumbing to Japan and England coming up short in South Africa. Scotland easily beat Canada, while Wales had a good win over Argentina.

Irish Independent

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