Cian Healy has geared up to neuter Scotland’s scrum in Sunday’s World Cup opener by taking tips from some of Tokyo’s top sumo wrestlers.
Ireland loosehead Healy admitted one of the toughest challenges of the Yokohama battle will be to negate WP Nel’s “bombs”.
The Scotland tighthead is the linchpin of his side’s scrummage, leaving Healy well aware he must subdue the 33-year-old powerhouse.
Healy and Ireland visited Tokyo’s Isegahama stable in midweek, the tourists granted rare access during sumo competition as a mark of respect.
Champion ozeki rank wrestler Terunofuji Haruo took time to talk to members of the Ireland squad, even wishing Joe Schmidt’s men luck for the challenge ahead.
“It was class, I did that as well on the tour here in 2017,” said Healy.
“And when it became an option this time I was urging the lads to do it because I was saying how good it was.
“Culturally it was one of the best things I did last time around, gaining an understanding of it that they are not just big lumps. The amount of training they put in, their flexibility, strength, power, everything.
“It was a really good experience to get that and chat to the lads afterwards.
“They were really open and good with us – they just wouldn’t let us stand down on the ring!
“They did wish us luck actually. The main man, he followed a few of us on Instagram and he was giving us a few direct messages and chatting to us.
“He was saying good luck and things. So there’s been a bit of chat and a bit of craic.”
South Africa-born Nel is central to Scotland’s ambitions of a potent set-piece weapon, and Healy expects a tough examination this weekend.
“They are a pretty strong scrum, they’ve been getting better and better. They’re a threat and Nel is a real cornerstone for them,” said Healy.
“So we’ll be dealing with a lot of his tactical scrummaging, the angles and things that he might be looking for.
“We’ve simulated a bit of that in a bid to plan for it but you can never plan somebody fully. So we’ve been working on ourselves as much as making plans to defuse their bombs.
“It’s bubbling over now, yeah. The move to Yokohama now has been a real eye-opener that it’s here.
“Joe (Schmidt) said it the other day about it becoming very real when the first team gets named.
“We’re ready to go now and start building in. We’ve put a lot of work and dedication into ploughing everything to getting into physical shape.
“I’ve always appreciated moments like this. But it’s probably more of an age thing, that makes you look deeper into it and probably look out for others a bit more.
“Certainly I’m thankful for my position considering where I was a couple of years back, and it’s been a lovely road back to chasing fitness, getting there and enjoying doing it.
“So it’s about keeping chatting to the lads. I’d be focusing on grabbing lads one on one and working on little things and things like that.”