Saturday 24 March 2018

Usain Bolt's words convince Ireland they can turn flat build-up into World Cup glory

Usain Bolt with Rob and Dave Kearney during his visit to the Irish camp
Usain Bolt with Rob and Dave Kearney during his visit to the Irish camp
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Last weekend, the World Cup welcome parties got into full flow as the participating nations arrived in England and Wales.

Ireland's journey may be one of the shortest out there, but they will be fashionably late when they make their appearance tomorrow evening, preferring to let the squad return home for one last night tonight before they make the short hop to Cardiff.

It is all part of Joe Schmidt's low-key approach to what they hope will be a marathon tournament, and keeping the players fresh and engaged is part of the process.

Over the course of their time in camp, the squad have had a host of visitors, but their last one may have made the most telling impact.

Fresh from his latest heroics at the World Championships, Usain Bolt popped in to their London hotel after the defeat to England to field questions from the squad, before joining them for dinner and posing for numerous pictures.

It helped lift the spirits after a difficult afternoon, but according to Rory Best there was a more relevant message in what the fastest man in the world told them.

"I would be a big fan of all sports," the Ulster hooker said. "To meet someone like that was unbelievable. He is such an iconic figure in the word of sport.

"There wouldn't be many people that would be more recognisable, so just to get his thoughts on things. . .

"The big thing, from our point of view, was just that he says that when he goes into championships and he feels good, he knows he's going to perform.

"It's not necessarily about how events leading into it have gone. It is about how he's feeling himself.

"From our point of view, we're feeling pretty good at the minute. Obviously, the results over the last two games haven't went the way we wanted.

"He has a lot of self-belief. He knows when he prepares well and is ready for the tournament he can perform. He was unbelievably relaxed.

"The big thing that struck me about him was just how big he is.

"Paulie (O'Connell) went to present him with a shirt. Paulie still claims he had an inch on him, but I'm not convinced."

Bolt's visit was arranged through businessman Denis O'Brien, and team manager Mick Kearney said it was all part of the process of keeping the players engaged and interested away from the workload in preparing for such a big tournament.

"It's really important for the culture of the group and the general enjoyment of the group," he said.

"The feedback from the players in terms of bringing in personalities - we had Christy Moore in there a couple of weeks ago as well, we had (chef) Richard Corrigan in to cook us a meal one night, which I think went down very well, we had Tommy Tiernan down in Galway. . .

"And probably the highlight for the lads was having Usain Bolt come into the team room last week. I think everyone got a bit of a surprise, and he was fantastic.

"And I must say he came across as an extraordinarily humble, nice guy.

"For the lads to see someone like Usain Bolt, who has won 11 of the last 12 major sprints in Olympics and World Championships, come in and just be so humble and so giving of his time was a really good experience."

Ireland will be on the move frequently throughout their time in the UK, starting in Cardiff this week before visiting Burton upon Trent, London, Guildford and Newport on their travels.

"We're moving around a fair bit," Kearney explained. "There are advantages in that Ireland are very used to playing now in the Millennium Stadium.

"We've a lot of happy memories from Cardiff and we're very comfortable in and around there.

"I think it is a plus and I think moving around is a plus because it keeps the players fresh just seeing different places and different parts of the UK."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport