Thursday 8 December 2016

Player Diary: John Muldoon - Finishing block on a high has left us full of confidence for run-in

John Muldoon

Published 05/02/2016 | 02:30

John Muldoon applauds the Sportsground crowd after the victory over Scarlets Photo: Sportsfile
John Muldoon applauds the Sportsground crowd after the victory over Scarlets Photo: Sportsfile

The highlight of my week off was bringing my dad John up to Dublin for the day, and we went to the horse sales in Tattersalls. Overall it was a pretty chilled out time for me. I didn't do a whole lot, I just let the body and mind recover. It was good just to get away from everything, and from the Sportsground.

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With a small break from rugby, we left it on the perfect note. It was great to get a result after the last few weeks where we were disappointed with how things went.

It was a happy place to be on Monday morning for the review. To finish on a good result will certainly make it easier to come back in again after the break.

It's quite a short turnaround, though; we knew we had a few days off this week, but then we found out that we were out again next Thursday against Dragons. So we reviewed Scarlets and previewed Dragons in the same session on Monday.

Everybody will be expected to have a bit of homework done by the time we join up again. Dragons don't even get the week off as they go up against Ulster tonight in a rescheduled fixture. In a way it's good to get the break but on the other side, they'll have that continuity of game time.

Effort

Against Scarlets, it was so pleasing to get the four-try bonus point, and more importantly to stop them from getting anything from the game. And it was a big effort from the pack which we were all delighted with.

We really put it up to each other in training on the Tuesday prior to the game. We felt that we weren't getting the return that we had been, all year, out of the maul. Our maul defence has always been good, but we felt we weren't doing enough at the other end.

It got tasty enough that Tuesday. We wanted to bring that forward into the game, and to get three maul tries. And then Rodney to score the other try, which was a few phases after a maul in which we had a penalty advantage, was really pleasing.

Pat challenged us to get four tries as well as the win so it was great to be able to deliver on that. We were obviously frustrated with the weeks that had gone by. We wanted to finish up on a high, we hadn't had a home Pro12 game since Ulster, and we were devastated with that result - our only home defeat this season.

We wanted to get back to winning ways in the Pro12 at the Sportsground. Especially with the way the Scarlets game went at Parc Y Scarlets. We would have felt massively frustrated if we had gone into the week off without that win.

The mood in the camp was one of pure determination that we didn't want to be going into the break with the feeling we'd left the game behind. We wanted to be in that positive frame of mind for our time off, and it's a great feeling.

It has given us such a boost for the rest of the season. Psychologically it was a big win for us, and we still have the work-ons, which is important. So no one gets the chance to get carried away or build themselves up too much.

You are always going to make mistakes, and with the way we play, and the damp conditions there will always be a risk of those handling errors. But we want to cut those out of our game and become the finished article.

Attention now turns to the Six Nations and with five of our own team-mates involved with the squad, we will definitely be watching the team selection later today with a lot of interest.

It's fantastic for Connacht to have more and more of our players exposed to that level and I believe the likes of Finlay and Ultan will thrive in there.

With Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell now gone, and a few experienced heads injured it will be very interesting to see where Ireland are at.

The World Cup is still fresh in the minds of everyone involved, and the key is whether they can bounce back with a win against Wales.

It's about re-building and getting those new players bedded in to the systems and structures. The next 12 months are huge, because the World Cup seeding is decided over the next year and if you don't win the games you could end up in a pool of death in Japan.

The key thing is to integrate new players without affecting your ranking. Teams need to get the balance right and make sure they remain consistent.

It's difficult to predict how it will go before the first round of fixtures. You look at Eddie Jones and you see how good he has been over his career as a coach, and especially what he did with Japan. But I assume it is going to be too soon for him and England.

It's hard to know with France as well, they have a good man just in there, Guy Noves. But it's hard to know how they will respond right away. And then Scotland had a good World Cup and they could have sneaked a win in the quarter-final against Australia. Italy are in the process of change too, so it is very difficult to know how it's going to end up.

On paper Ireland and Wales are probably the two strongest squads, which makes this weekend's fixture all the more intriguing. Schmidt versus Gatland is always a huge battle as well. I can't wait for it to start now.

Irish Independent

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