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‘The key things would be good food, a good night’s sleep and good Wifi’

Ger Carmody’s title is Head of Operations at the IRFU, although the colloquial terms, pathfinder or facilitator, perhaps best encapsulates his role.

He presides over a cohort whose responsibility is to ensure the Ireland rugby squad, coaching and backroom teams’ requirements are fulfilled, to allow them concentrate exclusively on winning rugby matches; a remit that centres on operational and logistical planning incorporating travel, accommodation, and the movement of personnel, kit and equipment.

Japan will be his fifth Rugby World Cup, having joined the IRFU in 1992. His expertise saw him seconded to the Lions as Logistics Manager for the tours to Australia (2013) and New Zealand two years ago. It was in October 2017 that Carmody paid his first visit to Japan, his travelling companions Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and head of Strength & Conditioning, Jason Cowman.

Ireland had played two tests in Japan that summer but Carmody had been on Lions duty. The itinerary included visiting match locations, hotels, training venues, both grass pitches and indoor facilities and elite gyms.

Ger Carmody: ‘We plan every aspect of what we going to do.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ger Carmody: ‘We plan every aspect of what we going to do.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The tournament organisers decided to simplify one issue based on feedback from the participating countries and that was to install temporary gyms in marquees at the training facilities.

The Irish party compiled a checklist and wish-list. Carmody explained: “The first thing you look at is the distance between hotel and pitch, the various training facilities and the stadia. The first thing we need to look at is whether we want to be based in a ‘working hotel’ or a ‘match hotel.’

“I would describe Carton House as a working hotel, where everything is self contained. A match hotel would be one in the city centre. These are two different dynamics in terms of the team accommodation.

“What we tried to do at every location was visit several hotels, pitches, indoor halls and gyms and then examine the travel distances involved. The infrastructure in Japan can sometimes mean that they don’t have hard shoulders on some of the roads so if a vehicle breaks then everything stops. We looked at the logistics of how everything works.”

Compromise

At that point Ireland knew that they would have first dibs on hotels and training facilities. The pecking order is determined by world rankings, the tournament run by JR 2019 on behalf of World Rugby and everything goes through the company.

The tournament organisers host 46 people in the official travelling party, covering travel and accommodation or landed costs as they are known. Anything above that, the IRFU must fund.

Ireland will have 53 personnel, an additional six people, a cost that the union will underwrite. It is not simply a case of money as those extra people cannot be accredited for stadia and dressing room access on match days but can act officially in hotels and training grounds.

JR 2019 group specific hotels and training venues together, dividing them into five separate packages based on the number of countries in a pool and there is no cherry picking a hotel in one and a training venue from another.

One of the challenges in Japan is that the people (as a race in general) are a bit smaller

Carmody explained: “We went and viewed them all. There is always going to be an element of compromise. You might have to forego something in choosing one package or another, where three or four aspects of it are perfectly suited but one might not be. They are all top quality facilities but different teams have different requirements so you’d look and see what best suits you.

“You might decide we are going to prepare in this hotel and move in closer to the stadium near match day. If the distance is over 50 minutes travel time JR 2019 offer the option of switching to what they call a match hotel. So for a Saturday game you can go in on a Friday. You can leave everything in the original hotel, move in, and then return after the match.





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