Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Real traditional Japanese' - Irish players sad to see the back of zen-like surroundings

Andrew Conway, left, Jacob Stockdale and Chris Farrell arrive for Ireland Rugby squad training at the Yumeria Sports Grounds in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Andrew Conway, left, Jacob Stockdale and Chris Farrell arrive for Ireland Rugby squad training at the Yumeria Sports Grounds in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Regardless of the result against Japan, the Ireland squad will be sad to see the back of their unique base that has been home for the last week.

They will up sticks again tomorrow morning with Kobe the next stop along their meandering journey across Japan.

Ireland will re-immerse themselves back into the heart of a bustling city centre, which is a world away from the tranquil surrounds that they have experienced in recent days.

In truth, it has been difficult not to feel extremely jealous when listening to the players describe the zen-like qualities of the Katsuragi Hotel Kitanomaru, which they have had the run of this week.

With no other outside guests staying at the resort, Ireland have had the freedom to enjoy the state-of-the-art facilities all to themselves.

The traditional Japanese home-stay sounds more like a retreat than anything, with special areas reserved for meditation and chill out time.

Coming from Chiba and Yokohama where (and as Kobe will be), they were surrounded by a concrete jungle, Katsuragi offered them an ideal chance to recharge the batteries after a long build up to that Scotland game.

"I've really enjoyed the hotel we're in at the moment, real traditional Japanese," Josh van der Flier said.

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"It's kinda cool having your shoes off and walking around in your bare feet. It's very different.

"We were obviously up near Tokyo and in Yokohama and so we have been in cities where it is very busy around the place whereas we have been in a retreat-type hotel, there is not much around, it is out in the countryside.

"There's no-one there, it's just the team there really and there has been no-one else around. It has been good to focus and kind of get a bit of a mental refresher away from the mayhem of being in a city or having a lot of people around.

"It's a hard place for family to get to as well, so it has just been the team – it has been really good."

Joe Schmidt carefully selected that base during one of several recces to Japan and up to now, the meticulous planning off the pitch has worked a treat.

It is interesting to note that Japan didn't opt to use the quiet resort but rather stayed in a typically plush hotel in the nearby city of Hamamatsu.

"The hotel we're staying in is beautiful," Jack Carty said, echoing van der Flier's sentiments.

"There are turtles running around the place and a few of the lads have been using the rice pillows, I think that's what they are. They're these rock-hard pillows which are actually phenomenal to sleep on, I'd highly recommend it."

The players have clearly taken full advantage of the facilities at the Katsuragi Hotel, especially knowing that from here on in, they will be back in the more mundane surrounds of hotel life.

"There’s lovely hot springs in the hotel," James Ryan added.

"There’s one outside carved into a rock and it’s kind of in the middle of a garden so it’s a lovely place, especially because we were in Chiba and then Yokohama. It’s just a nice place to disconnect.

"There was a long run-in to that Scotland game, the whole summer really, so then being in two pretty full-on, hectic cities, I think it’s been nice. Definitely it’s a change-up to be in that place this week."

With Japan and Ireland opting for very different kind of build-ups, it will be fascinating to see which approach pays off come full-time this morning.

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