Away from the pressure of trying to win a series in New Zealand, the Irish team have done their best to ensure they benefit from the experience along the way.
With some kind of Nations League coming up, tours like this may never happen again. So while there’s a huge amount at stake when it comes to the challenge of taking on the All Blacks in their backyard, it’s important to relieve the pressure valve from time to time.
As the roster’s main caller, James Ryan has had enough on his plate as he looks to nail his detail ahead of Saturday’s second Test, but the lock has also been named to the fines committee, meaning that he has his hands full of punishments to players who are deemed to have broken the rules of the tour.
IRFU social media gave a brief glimpse of what this entails, when they posted a video of James Lowe and Joe McCarthy smashing eggs, both boiled and unboiled, on their heads, as Ryan watched closely. debates.
It’s all part of the fun of traveling. Anyone who has seen behind the scenes footage of the Lions from the 1997 tour when Keith Wood held court or, in 2017, when Simon Zebo had to call Rob Penny to ask if he could captain Munster, will understand how this genre of things can really bind a team together.
“I’m one of the sheriffs, so make sure the guys don’t get it wrong,” Ryan explained. “If someone is late or in the event of an accident, they are punished quite severely actually.”
As for what those punishments entail when the cameras are off, Ryan smiles: “Probably things that aren’t printable. Penalties and fines – we are quite corrupt, so we take all kinds in return.
“The most heinous crime, no, I won’t even talk about it. But it’s a bit crazy. It’s important to make touring enjoyable – then from Wednesday, Thursday you start focusing on testing,” added Ryan.
After spending the first part of the tour in Auckland, Ireland flew to Dunedin yesterday to speed up preparations for Saturday’s second test.
With plenty of cafes and electric scooters to get around, the players enjoyed their time in Auckland, according to Ryan.
“They need to have the scooters in Dublin, don’t they?” I don’t know if they would work well. I think they might be in trouble.
“But they were awesome, $20 pass for the whole week. We have guys who are good at financial tips and advice – and so Tadhg Beirne, and I think it was Ryan Baird, gave us the lead to save a few bucks, buy the pass, the scooter for the week.
Getting around on the scooters also means players haven’t always been stopped by locals, who, once they spot the Irish gear, are eager to chat.
“They love their rugby here, that’s definitely a takeaway,” Ryan said. “There are rugby pitches in the middle of town, like, they’re everywhere. And you walk into the gym or have a coffee and people everywhere ask you questions about the game or about rugby.
“It’s pretty cool, actually. It’s great to shoot in a country like that. They love that you are here, and they love that you compete with them.
For many players on the team, this is their first experience of a real tour. The allocation of different roles within the social committee has enabled some to come out of their shell.
“Faz (Andy Farrell) always drives this,” Ryan argued.
“He doesn’t just want Johnny (Sexton) or Pete (O’Mahony) or whatever, he often says he wants everyone to be a leader, everyone to come out of their shell.
“That’s a big part of this tour and we’ve talked about how the Maori Games are just as important as the Tests in terms of building that team and that depth, and helping the youngsters progress.
“So we’ve definitely seen guys step in and be more vocal and have a point of view.”
It’s back to business today as Ireland put the finishing touches on the game plan they hope will save the series. For Ryan, that means making sure there are major roster improvements.
“The height they had last week is a challenge with Scott Barrett, (Sam) Whitelock and (Brodie) Retallick, but that’s what you want as a caller,” Ryan added.
“We couldn’t properly put our best foot forward in terms of attack and in terms of starting plays, because of the set piece sometimes. This is the one we have to settle for this week.