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game worry Andy Farrell calls on former boxing supremo Gary Keegan to help with 'performance anxiety'

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Gary Keegan has been called in to help with the Ireland rugby squad

Gary Keegan has been called in to help with the Ireland rugby squad

SPORTSFILE

Gary Keegan has been called in to help with the Ireland rugby squad

Ireland have called upon the services of renowned high performance coach Gary Keegan in a bid to ensure that there isn't a repeat of last year's 'performance anxiety' which the IRFU believed hampered the team at the World Cup.

Keegan, who played a key role in making Irish boxing the force it is today, has also worked with several successful teams such as last year's All-Ireland winners Dublin and Tipperary.

Former All-Ireland winner Enda McNulty had been involved with the Ireland team in recent years under Joe Schmidt, but the Armagh man has not been part of Andy Farrell's new setup.

Although it had been unclear if anyone had replaced McNulty in the role as mental skills coach, Farrell has revealed that Keegan is now part of his backroom team.

"Gary Keegan has been with us for some weeks now and he has been doing a tremendous job so that process has started," the Ireland coach said.

"Mick Kearney was obviously in, in previous years as the manager but he is there as a mentor for many of the players as well.

"A lot of our players, it isn't just the stress of a match week, it is life outside of rugby as well and that can be a whole build-up in a different manager and Mick helps massively with that.

"With Gary and Mick we are well on our way to starting something there that will be a big help in the future.

"Gary's mental skills as far as how that translates to performance is second to none and his whole connection piece in bringing the whole squad and the management into a place together is a big part of his remit."

In their review of last year's World Cup, the IRFU were heavily critical of Ireland's failure on the main stage, and Keegan will now be tasked with helping to solve whatever mental scars still linger.

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 Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

SPORTSFILE

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

"We are dealing with that type of stuff from a mental performance preparation aspect," Farrell continued.

"It is something we are touching on constantly. Stress comes from people wanting to put their best foot forward when they are given the opportunity.

"How you deal with that, that's something we can help from the outside, to help them along with that stress. That's international (rugby) football, isn't it? That's why its so different and why everyone wants to be a part of it.

"You try and do things your own way anyway so you are obviously starting afresh and trying to build, making sure that you don't put too many steps in front of them and that they can grow. That is pretty important, making sure that we build along the way.

"I have been asked this questions about support and performance anxiety many times and you've got to be careful about how you throw things into the place and you are not putting too much in front of them. The process has started as we planned but it is something that will help us massively in the future."

From a player's perspective, Rob Herring said that Keegan has already had an impact on the squad.

"It's been good," the hooker added.

"It's something you probably hear a lot - trying to find an edge mentally and just to change things up. I guess it's good to get another person's insight into how we're doing in camp and some of the things he has picked up, what we can improve and what we're doing well.

"Individually, we're connecting with him and he's just looking at what your routine is and where you can make more improvements.

"We keep the team stuff among ourselves and same with the personal things. It's nothing major, just small things he's noticing or where we can improve. Ultimately, everything you do individually adds up towards a better team performance. That's the main things we gain out of it."

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