Inside The Campus, where Ireland have been preparing for the World Cup

AWARE THAT THE heat will be a factor at the World Cup in Japan, Joe Schmidt was keen to bring his Ireland squad on a warm-weather camp during their preparations this summer, meaning a group of 40 players have spent the past eight days in Portugal.

While not replicating the humidity that will be difficult in Japan, their camp under the sun has been a success for Schmidt and his coaches, with Ireland’s training base at The Campus in Quinta do Lago allowing them to get through high-quality work.

The Campus is based in the Quinta do Lago resort. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

Ireland visited Quinta do Lago earlier this year before the Six Nations and were impressed enough to return over the past eight days, before a matchday squad flew on to London this afternoon, with the unselected players returning to Ireland.

Quinta do Lago is a Denis O’Brien-owned resort in the Algarve region of Portugal, and work on The Campus facility began as recently as 2017, producing what is now a state-of-the art high-performance centre that has also hosted football clubs such as Burnley and Millwall this summer.

Brian O’Driscoll has run rugby summer camps out of The Campus and Rio Ferdinand recently led football camps there.

Ireland were at the Campus since last Wednesday, taking full advantage of what’s on offer at the training facility. 

Ireland out on the pitch at The Campus. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Of most importance is the huge playing surface, a 155 x 84 metre DESSO GrassMaster hybrid pitch that is of international standard and big enough to be lined out for football, rugby or GAA, as well as leaving a ‘technical area’ for warm-ups and skills work.

With professional greenkeepers working across the Quinta do Lago resort, The Campus take some pride in the surface. Several of Ireland’s players took to the pitch with hurleys and a sliotar during down time over the past week, lending the place an even greater Irish slant.

Team rooms and the gym lead directly onto the pitch. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

Leading directly out onto the playing surface are changing rooms, treatment rooms for physios and team doctors to work with players, and the high-performance gym, which Ireland had exclusive use of when at The Campus as a squad.

The high-performance gym. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

While the high-performance gym at The Campus is not as large as Ireland are used to and has only four racks, it was well stocked for their needs during their camp. The gym doors open straight onto the pitch, allowing players to move between lifting sessions and skills work.

Another shot of the gym. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

When Ireland weren’t in the gym, it was available for other clients of The Campus to use, while there is also a general-use gym upstairs on the first floor of the high-performance building.

The Campus is also host to hot and cold plunge pools, which are excellent for aiding players’ recovery after tough training sessions, while the sauna and steam room have been used for the same purpose.

There are hot and cold pools, as well as a sauna and steam room. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

The 25-metre outdoor pool was popular with Ireland’s players this past week too, allowing them to do active recovery and also for chilling out.

The outdoor 25-metre pool. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

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The Campus houses meeting rooms and large spaces for yoga sessions, stretching and similar activities, while a team room caters for analysis work and meetings.

Dano’s sports bar and restaurant at the centre of The Campus was popular with the Ireland players and is open to the public too, meaning there were a few interested observers of training sessions at times over the past eight days. 

The Campus has its own bar and restaurant. Source: Rodrigo Bimering

The Campus also has clay and acrylic tennis courts of the highest quality, as well as four Padel courts. At the time of our tour of the facilities, there were many tennis classes ongoing, with Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, running camps at this facility over the summer.

Meanwhile, ‘The Bike Shed’ caters for cyclists of the competitive and more relaxed nature, renting and selling bikes and other equipment, with Irishman Mark Rohan – who won two gold medals in cycling for Ireland at the 2012 Paralympic Games – managing the shop.

Mark Rohan runs The Bike Shed.

Ireland naturally didn’t have any use for the tennis courts but many players rented out bikes to visit the nearby beach on down days.

A few minutes’ drive up the road within the resort, Ireland stayed in the Magnolia Hotel, block-booking the 74 rooms to ensure privacy, peace and quiet. With another outdoor pool, a good restaurant and a TV room, the Irish players were well taken care of away from the rugby too.

Ireland have been staying at the Magnolia Hotel. Source: RODRIGO COSTA

Quinta do Lago is famous for its golf too, with three world-class courses in the resort – another popular activity for many Irish players when they had time to get out.

Ireland had a squad dinner at the nearby Cheeky Pup, a gastropub co-owned by former Leinster player Eoin O’Malley, last weekend to celebrate captain Rory Best’s 37th birthday.

All in all, the eight-day stint under the sun allowed Ireland to work hard, bond a little more and take a few important steps towards the World Cup.

Murray joins Bernard and Gavan with all the latest from training camp in Portugal, including a concerning update on Joey Carbery’s fitness. Plus, BBC Scotland’s Tom English explains why the Scots have a negative perception of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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