It was a physical battle in Cardiff but sore bodies won't come into it against England
That’s why I think people are looking at this the wrong way.
Absolutely, the players would have been sore and tired after the Wales game. But at this stage of the week, that’s a distant memory. They’re obviously not going to spend the week hammering into each other in training – for one thing, it won’t help recovery; for another, they had all the contact they needed last Saturday.
If Ireland lose on Sunday, it will because England are a very good side who are playing with a lot of confidence. Sore bodies won’t come into it.
If anything, it will stand to those Irish players. They haven’t played a huge amount of games this season – certainly in comparison to the French and English players – and if a fitness planner wanted to design the sort of game that would get them right up to battle-hardness, the Wales game would have been exactly the kind he’d have had in mind.
Just think of it as a huge work-out, a massive contact session. Ideal preparation for what lies ahead.
Undoubtedly, there will be a huge physical toll involved in Sunday’s game as well. There has to be, because Ireland just don’t have the physical size of a team like England. When we talk about the Player Management System that the Ireland players go through, that’s what it’s for. Ireland players have to be fitter – and less injured – than players from other countries because otherwise a team with a lot of bulk and size like Wales will just exploit their natural advantage.
Ireland put in a massive physical effort last weekend and the very fact that they were able to do it and hold out for the win made it the perfect result. It’s far better that they had to spend the second half putting their bodies on the line as Wales came back at them than if they’d run in a few more tries and won by 40 points. They came through a battle and the confidence of knowing that their bodies and minds were up to the task is huge.
What you have to hope now is that they use it to make another step forward in the next game. As much as I’m saying the physical nature of the Wales game is a good thing, I’m not completely sadistic. Ireland won’t want to spend nearly as much time defending their own line on Sunday. That was hardcore.
But the body is a great thing. It adapts to whatever situations you put it through. Any fitness person will tell you that you do the training so that your body isn’t shocked when the real thing happens.
You muscles get harder, your body gets harder, you get more physically conditioned when you come through a game like that. It’s important for the players to handle the recovery sensibly but trust me, they will have enjoyed the amount of punishment they put themselves through. More importantly, I don’t see fatigue being any sort of factor against England on Sunday.