Fogarty says no one is ruled out of Ireland’s opening Rugby World Cup match against Romania

Coaches looking for ‘box office’ training sessions as team prepares for Rugby World Cup opener

Andy Farrell, his staff and his players have always preached the importance of “the squad” and this is liable to see pretty much all 33 players here in Tours used in Ireland’s opening two World Cup Pool B games against Romania and Tonga.

“From the second Faz [Farrell] came in he wanted to develop a group of players that were turning up to training incredibly competitive and that there was honest feedback from coaches to players where they knew exactly where they stood,” said scrum coach John Fogarty yesterday, after the squad trained under a sweltering sun at their newly built Stade de la Chambrarie training complex in Tours on Monday.

“I think players are really clear in their minds that they’re here to compete for their position and when they get to represent their country they’re really clear on what it is they need to deliver on.

“Training sessions need to be very physical. We have two packs now that, on the Wednesday session, Paulie [O’Connell] said to me: ‘It’s box office’. When we get out of a scrum or a maul it’s incredibly competitive so we’re sharpening massively during the week because we’ve got that type of a group.”


Fogarty, who was bullish about the fitness of the squad in general, maintained “no one is ruled out” of Ireland’s opening World Cup match against Romania in the Stade de Bordeaux on Saturday (kick-off 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish).

Yet the likelihood remains that Dan Sheehan will not be pressed into action as he continues his recovery from the sprained foot ligament he sustained in the win over England last Saturday week. Hence, Ronan Kelleher’s recovery from the hamstring strain which side-lined him for all three warm-up games is timely.

“I’ve been training fully and I’m just raring to get going now,” said Kelleher. “I had a few little niggles there over the last couple of weeks but fit now and ready to go.”

Kelleher hasn’t played since the Champions Cup final in May, but the hooker maintained there were two ways of looking at that.

“You’d be thinking maybe I haven’t got a couple of games under the belt, which I would have liked, but at the same time my body feels unbelievably healthy, so it’s great. You very rarely go into matches feeling 100 per cent healthy, which is great. For me personally, first World Cup, really looking forward to it.”

Whatever else Ireland bring to this World Cup, it’s doubtful that any country will have as good a third-choice hooker, whoever that may be.

“Ah look, we’re so lucky, aren’t we, to have such talented hookers,” said Fogarty of Sheehan, Kelleher and Rob Herring. “Yeah, they’re aware that they’re in a competition with each other. It’s always been that way.”

Romania are ranked 19th in the world and Fogarty said of them: “They’re organised, they’ve got real size in what they’re doing. We need to be accurate in what we’re doing. First game out, we don’t need to be hyped. We need to be in control, calm and accurate about what we’re doing.

“They’ll have a lot of energy. A rich history, they’re going to be up for it so we need to make sure that we’re ready in both ways, control and physicality.”

The hot weather is set to continue when the squad transfer to Bordeaux on Thursday, with temperatures in the mid-30s and the humidity set to be even more stifling for Ireland’s one afternoon kick-off in the pool stages.

But Fogarty stressed that the squad have benefitted from both their training week in Portugal and match week in the south-west of France for the Samoan game in Bayonne.

“We feel we have stressed the players in that and there’s some really good strategies around how we’re going to deal with it.”

Furthermore, when asked about the Springboks’ 7-1 split on the bench for their rout of the All Blacks at Twickenham last Friday week, Fogarty said: “We haven’t really spoken about it too much. I guess there’s risks and rewards with anything you do with your bench. What we do feel is that we’re very confident in the group of forwards that we have.

“Pre-season has been excellent. Fitness levels, power, strength – we’re right up there with anyone in the world and we feel ready to take on just about anyone in the world. So, whatever comes our way, we’re going to be ready.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times