Thursday 19 September 2019

'You can never really relax' - Why some Irish players are facing 'huge pressure' in World Cup training camp

CJ Stander during Ireland Rugby squad training at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, Faro, Portugal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
CJ Stander during Ireland Rugby squad training at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, Faro, Portugal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Joe Schmidt furthered the World Cup whittling down process ahead of Ireland's training camp in Portugal this week, trimming the squad by three as the final 40 players look to book a place on the plane to Japan.

Mike Haley, John Cooney and Finlay Bealham joined Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell in being cut from Schmidt's Ireland squad, but with just 31 players set to travel to the tournament, the Ireland head coach has a number of tough decisions ahead of him.

This Saturday will be the next chance to audition in front of a live audience, as Ireland travel to Twickenham to face England in their second World Cup warm-up match.

While some key men such as Johnny Sexton and James Ryan are likely to be rested, with one eye on keeping them fresh for the World Cup opener, a number of other players will have to give 100% if they want to edge ahead in the selection process.

Luke Fitzgerald took part in three World Cup training camps, and achieved mixed success in his attempts to make the final squad. He was omitted in 2007 and 2011 before making the cut in 2015.

With the Irish players forming for camp for the first time early in the summer, it has been a long process already up to this point and the World Cup is still over four weeks away.

Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi, Fitzgerald says that there is 'huge pressure' on players on the fringes of making the squad, and it can make for a tough pre-season experience.

"It is the length of it, it is the build-up, it is the pressure of every day," Fitzgerald said.

"From my perspective, I was never a nailed on starter. Those guys will have a good indication that they will be going as long as they don't get injured, or show up in really bad shape.

"There are certain players who if they train well and come in in decent shape, they will go on the plane - regardless of what the coaches say.

"I was never in there so it was huge pressure every time I came in because every day was really important for me to try and impress. For those people, it is really challenging. You are trying to impress and you have to come in as best shape as you can. It is the sheer length of it and you can never really relax."

While some players have to put in a huge effort just to make the squad, there is no let-up once the tournament begins, as then the real battle only begins.

"I had some bad experiences and didn't get in twice but even the one I did get in for, you've performed under pressure, you are on the plane, you are going to the World Cup, you are delighted - but all of a sudden you have eight weeks of games and you have to try and produce every day in training again," Fitzgerald added.

"It starts all over again. You have to try and get into the 23. It is a lot of pressure for those guys. It is very hard off the back of that to produce for the whole season. It is very difficult to be that switched on every day."

Online Editors

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