Sexton and Madigan on Ireland's "full-on" 15 vs. 15 tilt with Ulster
"There were no cheap shots, no off-the-ball stuff."
Glad to hear it! On Sunday, Ireland welcomed down the senior Ulster squad to the High Performance Centre, in Dublin, for a full-throttle Six Nations warm-up.
Conscious that they would like their players tossed into pressure-cooker situations, and that the Ulster squad were in need of a tune-up, Andy Farrell and his coaching staff send along an invite to Dan McFarland & Co. that was readily accepted.
Many Irish rugby supporters would have been hoping for the likes of John Cooney, Jordi Murphy, Eric O'Sullivan, Michael Lowry, and more, to have made the Ireland cut, so Sunday was a prime window to show what they could offer.
Ulster and Ireland outhalf Ian Madigan took part in the intense training session and said it was a great experience for some of the younger Ulster players to get a taste of what is required at the top. He spoke about the experience on the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 1:00 below].
"It was great for some guys, who may not have experienced it before," said Madigan, "to be able to see, first-hand, the intensity the national team tain at, and to put their best foot forward and get themselves in the shop window for, hopefully, Andy Farrell to look at them in the future.
"It was a great experience for us, as a team, and it was good to see the Irish lads buzzing when we got into camp. You can tell they're all very excited for the Six Nations to get underway."
"To explain the sheer size of the centre," Madigan continued, "you've got two indoor pitches. So, for the split, we had the backs on one indoor pitch - a soccer pitch - then the other indoor pitch is a rugby pitch. You've got unbelievable space... and gym. It really is a great facility. All the food on-site.
"One of the big advantages of that is they can go from Carton House [midweek team hotel] and do all their training and video analysis and then, when they are going back to Carton House, they can actually switch off."
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton spoke, in Wednesday's media briefing, a little more about that up-tempo session to get the team hitting their straps ahead of Sunday's Six Nations opener agains Wales.
"It was great," he said. "I wasn’t involved with it, I was still in the last stages with the physio but the guys were out, the two [full] teams out.
"It was probably hard to get a bit of a flow but in terms of trying to play a bit of phases we’ve prepared against live opposition that don’t know what’s going on. Ultimately we’re training team-against-team so we know the players that are thrown at each other so it’s very hard to work.
"Often you can kind a bit anxious and wonder does that play actually work. So it’s good to see opposition that don’t know what’s going on. We had a good hit out, it was full-on but very respectful, if you know what I mean. There were no cheap shots, no off-the-ball stuff, there are different levels and some guys have different interpretations.
"It was a good thing thing to go out and learn from lessons and hopefully we don’t have to learn the same ones next week."
YOU CAN WATCH THAT EPISODE HERE: