'I met Johnny before Welsh game...he said they'll peak for Scotland' - Luke Fitzgerald says Ireland targeting opener
As the clock ticks closer to Ireland's World Cup opener against Scotland on Sunday morning in the Yokohama International Stadium, ex-international Luke Fitzgerald has stated that the side are primed to peak for that first game rather than later in the tournament.
Fitzgerald was speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi, and told a panel including new recruit Leinster's Fergus McFadden that a chance encounter with Johnny Sexton had given him an insight into Ireland's preparations.
"I actually met Johnny before the first Welsh game and I was saying I didn't really think the English game mattered at all,"Fitzgerlad said.
"I assumed they'd done a massive amount of work in Portugal the week before and were preparing to really peak for the quarter-final. And he was like 'no, definitely looking to peak for Scotland'.
"So that's kind of interesting. The way they peak it, your training sessions will peak in terms of volume two or three weeks before your big game and then you start tapering.
"So the week of the game instead of doing heavy weights you might just be doing one rep with a bench press or a jump with no weights. The really taper it down with light loads purely based on power and you're really primed to explode on the weekend for the big games. I thought that was how they'd build it but it sounds like they're really building for Scotland.
"From the horse's mouth, that's what they're going for. Which makes sense I suppose because if you start off well there, you build a bit of momentum."
Sexton's Leinster team-mate McFadden can see the sense in that approach with a tricky tie against hosts Japan following six days later in Shizuoka.
The Asian nation famously beat South Africa in England four years ago under the stewardship of current England boss, Eddie Jones. And while Ireland and Scotland are clear favourites to come out of Pool A, McFadden believes that home advantage could lead to a tricky tie for whoever loses on Sunday.
"God forbid it doesn't happen but if they lose against Scotland, I imagine the Japanese are going to target the loser of that game, "he explained.
"They're going to go 'if we beat the loser of that game, we can come second in this group'. I'm sure they're looking at that so it bears so much importance, that first game.
"Realistically, it's up to us to top that group. but does it put us in an easier position in a quarter-final? That's up for debate but not really. Would you rather play South Africa or New Zealand?
"It's going to be a tough route regardless but it's good for confidence to get the boys going a bit more after a good win against Wales. If they beat Scotland well, you'd like to think they will get through that group.
"And then if you can keep guys on their feet and not pick up any more injuries, because we're not in a position to pick up any more injuries at this stage, we'll be in a good enough position going into that quarter."