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Johnny Sexton and Roy Keane Dan Sheridan/INPHO

No speech from Roy Keane despite his visit to the Ireland rugby team’s base in Portugal

The ex-Man United captain watched Ireland’s training along with Pádraig Harrington.

THERE WERE SOME high-profile visitors to Ireland camp in Portugal yesterday as Roy Keane, Pádraig Harrington, and Niall Horan turned up to watch training at their base in the Quinta do Lago resort.

The widely-shared photos of Keane chatting to Ireland captain Johnny Sexton drew some superb captions.

Keane has been invited into Ireland camp to formally speak with the squad before, as well as visiting England camp when Eddie Jones was in charge, but there was no motivational speech this time around. The football pundit just happened to be in the area.

“I didn’t get to chat to him, I was training,” said Ireland prop Cian Healy today when asked about Keane’s visit.

“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a scheduled thing. He was just on holidays here and showed up for a look.”

As a former world-class athlete himself, Keane surely enjoyed seeing how Ireland operate on a day when they trained against the Portuguese national team, who are also preparing for the World Cup.

The two squads did live set-piece work against each other, while also practicing some of their plays and patterns in what was said to be a beneficial exercise for all. Portugal certainly appreciated the chance to work with the world’s number one-ranked team.

niall-horan-and-padraig-harrington-attend-training Niall Horan and Pádraig Harrington at Ireland training. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Continuing his theme of including the players’ families as much as possible, Ireland boss encouraged them to get their loved ones to travel out to Portugal this week too. This pre-season has involved a relaxed approach as Farrell and his coaches look to avoid the stress and anxiety that has set in for previous World Cups.

“It’s a really good camp,” said Healy. “A lot of fun, a lot of time together on and off the pitch, especially over here, we’ve got nice time in the afternoon to spend a bit of time with the group and break off to spend a bit of time with families as well.

“We’re working very hard when we’re on and we’re recovering very hard when we’re off, so it’s a good mix.

“What we haven’t done this time round is the kind of mindless running up and down the pitch. Now we did it today as a top-up but that was the first time we’ve done it this pre-season.

“All of our fitness has been through rugby and in the sessions the skills are very sharp. Players are on and going well so it’s a nice change-up.”

While 23 of the squad got a chance to play last weekend against Italy, most of the others will have to wait another while for their first pre-season hit out.

England visit Dublin on Saturday 19 August and there will be some players fighting for their World Cup spots, but Ireland have discussed not allowing this to become an individual effort.

gavin-coombes-ross-byrne-jimmy-obrien-and-craig-casey Ireland trained in the sun today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There’s going to be a lot of players looking to put their hand up but we’ve talked about how to do that,” says Healy.

“It’s to play our game and play how we play to the best of our ability. You don’t get picked by being the hero and going out and trying to do something fantastic because the percentage of doing that is pretty low.

“We have a pretty expansive game and players that know how to play it and have the ability to play it, so just looking forward to seeing everyone getting their chance and I suppose how they buy into what we’re doing and where it’s going and what stamp they can put on it themselves then.” 

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