Paul Bunce: Regroup now for big finish to the campaign
It was a sombre enough trip home from France on Sunday night after our loss to Toulouse. We were all bitterly disappointed to lose out on a quarter-final spot in the Champions Cup so the fact that we were able to get straight home on a charter flight was fortunate.
From a physical standpoint, I was pleased with the way our boys performed in Sunday's game. They found the game extremely physical, especially the opening 20 minutes where we were forced to defend against big men.
I feel there were a lot of positives to take away in terms of the way we coped with their size and physicality. That was in part due to the game-plan we had but also the character and heart of the players coupled with a sound training week.
Our scrum was very solid which shows that, on their day, our forwards are strong enough to cope with one of the biggest packs in northern hemisphere rugby, and defensively the effort was incredible.
Ultimately there are always areas we need to work on and improve going forward but Sunday was a good barometer of where we are at, and also where we need to be physically to compete at Champions Cup level.
One thing is for sure, we were able to outdo Toulouse in the fitness side of things!
After Monday morning's review of the game, most of the senior players had the remainder of the week off. While it is important for players to get a mental and physical break and put their feet up, it's just as important that they avoid doing absolutely nothing in their week off.
Whether they decide to go abroad or stay at home with family and friends, we encourage them all to do some training on their own. The players are provided with training sessions and its important that they keep active and get some work done over the week and come back next Monday ready to hit the ground running.
This can range from getting a weights session to finding a place to do some fitness.
Looking after their nutrition and personal rehab is also imperative. As professionals, they are naturally good at managing this and they know what they need to do.
For some of our senior players, however, this week is a normal training week. There are a lot of guys we are looking to get back and available for the Cardiff or Dragons games in February and so we have a full programme running for them this week.
Training two to three times per day, they will have the usual boxes to tick with the S&C and physio departments.
We have a programme that is tailored for the injured players called 'Return to Perform'. The return date after an injury is for a player to be ready to perform, not just play and that's the standard we have set for ourselves.
Craig Ronaldson and John Cooney are great examples of guys who have come back recently and immediately had an impact in games.
Tristan Sharp, our senior strength and conditioning coach, leads the programme and does a fantastic job in getting the most out of them as they work their way back in to the frame for selection.
While injuries have been a big narrative in our season so far, we were really happy to come off the last two games with no major injury concerns.
We are heading into a crucial period in the Guinness Pro12 and we know we need the results to ensure we climb up that table and hit our target of a top-six finish.
Having more players available is crucial for our preparations.
Someone like Eoghan Masterson, who played 40 minutes for the Eagles last weekend after nearly a year out of the game, is a massive boost for the squad competition and our options up front.
With the Six Nations kicking off next weekend, we'll obviously be without a few key players as well for the next few weeks.
It's fantastic to see Tiernan O'Halloran, Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane all named in the squad and we hope they have a really successful campaign with Ireland.