How Ireland's top rugby stars are staying in shape at home 11 months ago

How Ireland's top rugby stars are staying in shape at home

"Everybody’s going to come back stacked. Everybody’s going to be in their house just lifting weights flat-out."

With the rugby (and just about every other sporting) season on hold due to the Coronavirus, many of Ireland's top rugby stars are now gearing up for a number of weeks in the confines of their own homes.

The latest government measures announced on Tuesday by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar state that those not engaged in non-essential services or heading to buy supplies should stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus. Folks are still being allowed out for some daily exercise but the government hope everyone limits that to just one outing a day.

To that end, rugby professionals have been using the past few days to set up, or add further to, home gyms.

On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby [from 25:20 below], Ulster scrumhalf John Cooney spoke about his gym plans while Jack Carty and Ian McKinley are both keeping active in their own ways.

Jack Carty in action for Ireland against France in 2019. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)


"Two weeks ago, I went up to Dublin and got an assault bike, which has been a great purchase but also one of the worst. I say that because every time I'm halfway through a session, I'm like, 'Why did I buy this?!'

"So I got that and Connacht, in fairness to (strength and conditioning coaches) Dave Howarth, Johnny O'Connor and Barry O'Brien, they took the whole gym apart and then they gave out a questionnaire to the squad in terms of 'Need', 'Want' and 'Have', and they divided all the gym equipment up between the lads.

"We managed to get a good bit of equipment as there's two of us (players) in the house. So we have a trap-bar, bar-bell, two 25kg plates, two 20kgs, two 10kgs. A 47kg dumb-bell, a 40kg dumb-bell and then a few little bits.

"Murph, my teammate, is a hooker and I'm a 10, so every time he does an exercise we then have to strip the bar off because I'm so weak!"


"I’m back to it today now and will probably do a little bit. Ulster have given us things to do, if you want to do stuff. But it’s kind of relaxed for a couple of weeks, I think, because it’s probably going to be an uncertain season and it could go on for ages. I’ll do a bit anyway, for vanity reasons!

"The [staggered gym sessions] are gone now. Just to show our support with the social isolation, and stuff like that. So now it’s more self-led. Everyone was going in and taking some weights, whether it’s dumb-bells or plates or whatever you need. Now it’s off to yourself for a couple of weeks and hopefully counteract this virus and try to prevent it as much as we can."



"All gyms are closed and everything is completely blocked off. So in terms of trying to stay fit, it’s pretty difficult. The club has given various at-home programmes, which you sort of have to improvise with. Maybe lifting 10 plates doing a squat, or something like that. You just have to improvise. But, yeah, it’s difficult trying to try and keep up the same level as you were before."

The Irish players are not the only ones trying to stay trim, and focused, in these uncertain times. Malakai Fekitoa is hard at it:

And you just knew South Africa's Jesse Kriel would be keeping on top of fitness matters...

Stay safe. Keep on grinding.



Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are back together (but staying apart) as they host the latest House of Rugby from their houses. The lads are joined by Ulster and Ireland scrumhalf John Cooney. They talk about staying positive during wild times, the pay deferral agreement made between Rugby Players Ireland and the IRFU, and chat movies too.