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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 06:59 GMT 07:59 UK
Survival of the fittest
By Jim Stokes
BBC Sport in Australia

Ireland fitness co-ordinator Mick McGurn (left) with Gary Longwell
McGurn (left) is pleased with his players' fitness
Ireland are in good nick and raring to go for their big challenge against Argentina on Sunday in Adelaide.

Of course, that smacks of four years ago when they travelled to Lens, only to be mauled 28-24 by the Pumas and denied a quarter-final place.

That will be in the minds of the survivors of that night in France as they prepare for the one big game that could take them through to the last eight.

However, it is a different Ireland to the one in the 1999 tournament. Like England, they have spared no expense in getting the best back-up staff.

Ireland have trained for this tournament like no other and fitness co-ordinator Mick McGurn believes they have never been in better condition.

"I'm extremely happy with the way things have progressed," said McGurn, the former St Helens rugby league fitness guru, who joined up with the Irish as part of coach Eddie O'Sullivan's new regime.

Rugby league types generally think union players are not as well conditioned
Irish fitness coach Mick McGurn

"When I took on the job a few seasons back, I knew that this was the game they wanted to peak for. It means a lot.

"They are as fit and as strong as they could possibly be.

"We have done a few beach recoveries at our base in Terrigal and some of the Newcastle Knights rugby league coaching staff were watching. Tthey were very impressed with the conditions of the team.

"Coming from them that is praise indeed. Rugby league types generally think union players are not as well conditioned."

A torrential downpour greeted Ireland for their weekend pool game against Namibia, which the Irish won 64-7.

And McGurn said: "Preparations for the game against Argentina were a little bit upset by that downpour.

"That was our first wet game since we played Argentina in Dublin nearly a year ago.

"But although conditions overall have been cooler here than anticipated, they have been perfect for us."

The big game

McGurn initially shaped the current squad with pre-tournament training in Bilbao, Spain.

But such was the success of the sessions, he admitted: "I cut some of the training sessions short, which I don't normally do.

"There was no need to prolong them because the squad was going so well, and I honestly don't think the boys can get much fitter.

"We still have a bit left. We have trained very hard after the games against Romania and Namibia as we have projected that Sunday will be our first big game.

"The players' recovery has been spot-on. It's perfect as we are down at the beach and they swim after training. The hotel were we are staying also has an ice box and jacuzzi which we use.

"This is a method which speeds up recovery from bumps and bruises and rids the body of all the lactate acid in the legs.

"Because it is on site here, it is perfect and hassle-free. Now it's a matter of having the players just spot on for Sunday."

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