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Wallace sharpens focus for battles that lie ahead

Carton House was a busy place to be last week -- especially the gym.

The latest stop for the juggernaut that is Ireland's pre-World Cup camp was the luxurious hotel and its gym and, according to David Wallace, there was plenty of competition between the players when it came to the sessions.

Although the Limerick man refused to divulge the name of the biggest show-off, he did admit that there was lots of peer pressure and plenty of banter too.

But that doesn't mean the Ireland squad was not working hard. They divided their time between the gym and the pitch doing a variety of sessions. Plenty of conditioning, weights, skills, and fitness work with a few practice games thrown in too.

After the conditioning, which takes a lot out of the players, they have down days to rest and gather themselves for the next block of training. The levels of preparation that players put in have pretty much come full circle since Wallace started playing professional rugby.

During his early days with Munster they didn't have a fitness coach -- it was left to the individual to look after that aspect of their training.

Then in 1999 Munster brought in Fergal O'Callaghan and made great strides as their fitness improved. It was the start of a process for Wallace, the latest step of which took him to Carton House last week. And although pre-season training is extremely demanding, a five-star hotel softens the blow.

"Its almost like being on holidays," said Wallace. "It's fantastic being here, the pitches are right on the doorstep, there is a great gym set-up, a marquee for us to use, lovely food and it's easy for the lads to get rest between sessions."

It's definitely far removed from the harsh conditions they had to endure in 2007 when preparing for the World Cup in France. They completed two stints in Spala, an isolated training camp in the Poland, which included a cryotherapy centre.

And of course Carton House's location is ideal; it's just over two hours to his native Limerick. So far this pre-season the travelling schedule hasn't been too demanding but that is all set to change when their warm-up games start next month.

Scotland and France away, followed by France and England at the Aviva.

"We are home again for the next week and after that it will be full on," said Wallace. "Not every player will be involved in every warm-up game so when you are not involved in certain games you get some time at home. Part of rugby is travelling, but in the long run it's only for a short period so you just have to make the most of it."

Although unlikely to be involved in all of the warm-up games, Wallace wants to be fully prepared. He wants to be firing on all cylinders and he wants to play well because getting his name on that World Cup squad sheet is the aim of the game.

The Ireland squad are not yet working with sports physiologists, not as a group anyway.

"I think it's a private individual thing, players will talk to people if they feel that they need to but I think if you do it in a group it sometimes can be a little counter-productive, guys might not want to talk.

"I think everyone would be willing to try it alright but I think Declan (Kidney) is very good on that side of things. That's probably why we don't really need it; he seems to be able to get us mentally in the right frame of mind for training and matches."

Wallace has plenty of World Cup experience; he was part of the Ireland squad that travelled to Australia in 2003 and France in 2007. However, his experiences weren't very fruitful. In 2003, he got a late call-up, but didn't play and in 2007, Ireland failed to make it out of their pool.

"That was very disappointing. We'd like to make amends. We didn't play well and I'm not sure why. We weren't playing well going into it.

"In fairness, we had a tough group and we struggled to find a vein of form. Hopefully this year with the summer series we will find that form."

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