As the senior team makes a #ReturnToRugby, we spoke to Alan O’Connor and Billy Burns on the new safety measures in place, how it feels to be back training together at Kingspan Stadium, and what it is that players are most looking forward to in the weeks and months ahead.
What does it feel like to be back at Kingspan Stadium with the squad?
Alan O’Connor: It’s a bit weird – and there are some new rules in place, including the one-way system, and keeping our distance inside, but it’s great to see the lads.
Billy Burns: I am loving it! I think there is only so much you can do in isolation, so it’s good to be back in with the boys – and to be getting the ball in our hands. Obviously, there are protocols in place, so we are still being very careful, but it’s great to have a bit of craic with the squad, and to focus on our rugby goals going forward.
What did you miss most?
BB: I didn’t realise how much I depend on the guys around me to get me up for sessions. Trying to stay motivated, and keep fit, over the period we were apart was tough. When you come in now, and have such a great group of guys around you… if you’re ever feeling a little bit low on energy, they pick you up, and I definitely missed that in isolation.
AoC: It was tough sometimes, especially at the stage when it felt like there was no end in sight – and they couldn’t put a date on it. I just tried to keep myself busy as best I could.
BB: Like I said, it’s great to be back and we’re firing straight into it now. There is only so much you can do on your own, but from looking at the shape that guys have come back in, everybody has come back in good shape, and everyone is fit.
What is the biggest challenge ahead of the Inter-pros?
AoC: I’m hoping it all runs smoothly in terms of what the Government says, and hopefully we can keep on going the way we are going – and progressing so that we can get back to our normal lives.
What aspect of #ReturnToRugby is it that you’re looking forward to the most?
AoC: Being able to do a bit of contact training, such as line-outs, that will be good and being able to do that as a full team. Obviously, I am also looking forward to the games we have coming up in August as well.
BB: It’s the games. If you ask any of the players, you play rugby to play matches. We know it’s going to be slightly different with no crowds, and the atmosphere is going to be strange, but as long as we’re out there playing the game that we love, we will be happy. It’s all about getting back out on the pitch. Training has been great so far, but by the end of 6-8 weeks, we will just want to go out and put it on the field.