It's a great buzz when our lads get Ireland call
Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30
It's fantastic to know that we'll be playing European rugby in April. Against Enisei at the weekend, we knew what we had to do and I was really pleased with the way we went about our business.
We got the four tries in the first half. It was a good call from John Muldoon to opt to play with the wind and really get into them early. It put the pressure on us to raise the tempo and really get in to our game from the get-go.
We were accurate and clinical in a lot of the things we did, but the most important thing was finishing off those scores and being ruthless in our finishing.
We now know that we'll be playing away to Grenoble in the quarter-final, which is great. We'll be playing rugby in France with a better chance of good weather, which usually suits our game.
Hopefully there will be a good few supporters who will be able to travel and enjoy a good weekend.
We can park that competition now and really focus on the Pro12 and seven massive games before we switch back in to Europe and knockout rugby.
When we reflect on the Challenge Cup and the challenges we faced, it was a great effort by the whole squad to get through to the knock-out stages in the end.
The biggest thing we can learn from last weekend's game is that when we bring intensity and we get our basics right - our passing, the way we carry, the way we recycle the ball - we can put any team under pressure.
It wasn't a perfect performance but we know it's up to us to bring a certain level of skill level and execution if we are to test a team like Scarlets.
Although it's game number 16 of 16 in this big block of games, we are treating this match in isolation and with a Test match mentality. We are not focusing on what has gone before or what is coming up after this game. It's another game with the all-important Pro12 points on offer and that's our motivation.
We don't need to focus on the game against Scarlets last month.
Yes we were utterly disappointed to lose out as we felt we had genuine opportunities to win and win it well. We didn't take those opportunities and then we had a chance to close out the game but we didn't. We had no one but ourselves to blame for that one and so there was a lot of frustration.
But we can only look ahead. We are back at home again, in similar conditions, and we will take a lot of confidence from the game against Enisei. There has been a real edge in training. We know the opposition this week will be a lot tougher but we've put a lot in to our preparation accordingly.
Scarlets are a quality side and their position at the top of the Pro12 highlights that. Wayne Pivac has a very similar approach to the game as I do. The fixtures between us have always been high scoring but very close games.
It will come down to precision and execution and we know we will have to be extremely clinical to give ourselves a chance of beating them.
It's been a long stretch these 16 games. I said from the start that it would take its toll on the smaller squads and we've had some challenges. But, if, at the end of this block of games, we are sitting in the top four of the Pro12 and have a Challenge Cup quarter-final to look forward to, we will be very happy with that as a reward for all the hard work of the squad and management team.
Champions Cup is our main goal but another objective is getting more Connacht players in the Ireland set-up. To have five players in the Six Nations squad is just fantastic and I believe all five of them have a real chance of being involved come the first two games.
Finlay Bealham received the news on Saturday evening after our game here and I'm absolutely delighted for him. He has put a huge amount of work into his game and brings a very professional attitude to everything he does.
Of course, those players will be missed in the coming weeks but so much of what we do here is also about helping individuals realise their ambitions so we are absolutely thrilled for them. It gives all the guys here a real buzz to see that hard work is rewarded and know that they helped their team mates get there.
I believe there will be a lot more Connacht players getting called up in the not too distant future.