Irish rugby squad gift each other Uggs and undies to boost team morale

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The team mates decided to put the challenge to one another to organise getting 30 freebies for each member of the team sourced from companies and big brands willing to sponsor their “team-building” exercise.

A source told the Sunday Independent: “The idea was that each lad had to get a gift for every single player on the squad. The only caveat was that they couldn’t pay for it – they had to get it for free. The guys have plenty of connections and people willing to sponsor them, so they didn’t have a problem getting a brilliant selection together.”

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A separate source added: “The gifts were from players to players, it is separate from the IRFU and the squad are carrying on a tradition which started a number of World Cups ago.” The gift set – worth more than €1,000 each – included landing 30 Nutri-Bullet high-speed blenders, top-end 600 series Sony smart phones, 3FE coffee box sets, mega decibel Beats headphones, Champagne, silver cufflinks, watches, pens and a roasting dish from Newbridge Silverware, Lifestyle Sports vouchers, Ugg boots, Calvin Klein underwear, Kiehl’s creams, Nutz earphones, Carton House Golf and Country Club vouchers, signed photographs of Conor McGregor, foam rollers, aftershave by Givenchy, Teeling whiskey gift packs, StenaLine vouchers, Guinness gift sets, Power’s whiskey, and grooming vouchers for Barbiere – an old school barber’s service on Dublin’s Camden Street.

The sack full of treats was handed out to get the team’s spirits roused before they jetted out to partake in the Rugby World Cup.

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Commenting on the bumper gift bag, Jamie Heaslip remarked: “Unreal effort by the squad, [it] feels like Christmas.”

Paul O’Connell also thanked Newbridge Silverware for their “nice touch” when he arrived in his hotel room in Surrey earlier in the competition to find the company had placed a family photo on each squad member’s bedside locker to remind them of their loved ones while they are away from home.

The gifts donated by the 30 brands, businesses and individuals had a good balance between health-conscious, sports-centred gifts for their time in training, to a couple of extra treats when it comes time to let their hair down.

Last year the IRFU broke through their pay limits to keep Jamie Heaslip in an Ireland jersey in what was described by industry sources a ground-breaking deal worth in excess of €1.5m over three years.

The contract signed by Heaslip saw the country’s best-paid rugby player receive a bumper pay rise to send his earnings rocketing to between €500,000 and €530,000 per year.

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This is based on the fact that the No.8 plays a certain number of games each season and achieves other targets aligned to team success.

When he retires, Heaslip will be able to avail of the Government’s scheme for retired sports stars that allows them claim back a 40pc tax deduction on their gross earnings from sports activity over a 10-year period.

That includes wages and match bonuses, but excludes sponsorship money, payments for writing media columns, and fees for appearing in advertisements. The scheme costs the Government €300,000 per annum to operate. Johnny Sexton also reportedly earns €500,000 to play for Leinster and Ireland and is reportedly raking in somewhere in the region of €150,000 in other endorsements.

Speaking about the rise of the rugby player wage packet, Simon Zebo previously told reporters that he hoped there would be a €1m-a-year Irish rugby player during the course of his career.

He said: “The way it’s gone, it is catching up with football day-by-day. These players earning massive contracts in France, getting €30, €40, €50k a month. That’s soccer money – ten grand a week, even though it might not be the top end.

He added: “There is more and more money coming into the game. It’s great. Hopefully I’ll be earning €1m a year.”

Meanwhile, George’s Dock in Dublin’s IFSC will become the official Irish Rugby Village. Giant screens, a street food market, live entertainment and bars stocked with craft beers will be on site this weekend.

Every match over every weekend through to the final on Saturday October 31 will be shown at the 2,000-capacity venue.

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