Phoney war finally over as Ireland squad settle in for extended RWC stay

RORY BEST IS still waiting patiently for his ceremonial squad gift, but the Ulster hooker is confident that everything else about Ireland’s World Cup preparation is in its rightful place.

Best packs down alongside Cian Healy at the RDS last week. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sunday evening tweets from Jamie Heaslip and Mike Ross put the squad’s gift-giving ceremony on full display – a tradition that survived the many chops that came after its inaugural outing in 2007. But after the 31-man squad waved goodbye to their loved ones after a Carton House barbecue, some were left short a freebie or two.

“Ach, it’s just really a bit of craic,” says Best. “This year we said ‘it could be anything’ the problem was some of the gifts didn’t turn up in time. So I’m still waiting on the postman with mine at the minute.”

The arrival presents and family farewells followed a hard-earned four day break for Joe Schmidt’s squad. A welcome spell away from the pressurised environment of camp with its cycle of training, meals and meetings.

Nobody, however, is looking forward to their next day off.

“We’re hoping to be around for a good few weeks over in England and Wales,” Best says with a steely confidence.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The balance has been really good throughout the summer from the management in terms of weeks when we’re in training and weeks where we’ve been off. It was nice to get three or four days at home to get completely away from rugby.

“Then (we) came in yesterday and really start this morning with a big build-up. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of time together over the next couple of months.”