IT AIN’T EASY being in camp for long periods of time.

Now, of course moving from one luxury hotel to another and living the life of a professional athlete is no hardship. But that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to keep your mind in the best condition to reach the highest level performance a player is capable of.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

From simply working with each other, players suddenly have to live, eat and even try to chill out a little bit with the same group of faces, the same voices, the same jokes that were funny when you heard them tell it two weeks ago.

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Joe Schmidt has planned for this particular side challenge from a long way out. In the early part of pre-season there was a brief departure from the ‘Team Ireland’ perception as players stuck with their province for the early part of pre-season. More recently, the camp have broken routine in camp by having meet-and-greet evenings with characters ranging from Christy Moore to Usain Bolt.

The 31 players head across the Irish Sea this week and the coaching staff will have a rigorous plan to help stave off any hint of boredom in between games. From short, sharp video analysis sessions, team meetings and motivational speakers; time between training sessions will be limited. But even that can be enough to knock a player out of a rhythm if they’re feeling homesick or just not mentally taxed.

Each player will have their own way to unwind and enjoy their own ‘me time’ – which may still include a room-mate.

David Wallace watches art imitating life at Rancho Relaxo. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Some players will happily lie down and catch up with a show on Netflix, others would consider watching TV way out of the ordinary and may simply turn the volume up on a playlist. The lucky ones can sleep at a moments notice, staying sharp by dozing off.

“You’d have a lorry-load of books with you, you’d need a pallet to bring your gear bag from one place to another — all that’s changed with technology, you can fit it all on your tablet.”

The weight and dimensions of the personal entertainment may have changed, but what it’s distracting a player from has not.

“The time is full of rugby, full of meetings, full of energy, full of doubt, potential and full of belief,” continues Wood, outlining the phase-by-phase gradual goal-setting that players have to go through to remain sharp.

“You want to make certain you’re in the initial squad of 50 and then you want to be certain of being in the initial squad of 31. Then when you get out to the actual World Cup itself you want to make certain you’re in a starting XV or 23.

“It’s an interesting kind of pressure to it. Because with four years to the next one, this could be your chance, your only chance, so you want to take it with two hands. That’s a pressure in itself.”

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