Friday 9 December 2016

Primed and ready to play my part in tonight's critical Blues tussle

Denis Buckley

Published 25/11/2016 | 02:30

Buckley returned to training and is ready to take his place after injury. Photo: Sportsfile
Buckley returned to training and is ready to take his place after injury. Photo: Sportsfile

Finally we are back into Guinness Pro12 action at the Sportsground this evening.

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I have been in full training for about three weeks, so I am delighted to get into game mode. I'm really excited to be back and looking forward to this evening's game.

It's hard to get the balance right sometimes. On the one hand I had a knee and elbow injury but I did get to do some weights especially in the second half of the injury break.

It was a good opportunity to get some quality conditioning in, and you can also work on skills. I did a lot of work on my scrummaging and binding. You can do the skills at a lower intensity and bring that in as the injury progresses.

I got a lot of work done, but on the flip-side when you are not playing games you are not as used to that match sharpness and the ability to make decisions in pressure situations and you are a little out of rhythm.

It's all about getting yourself up to speed, and to try and be able to seamlessly transition back to the level that you were before, if not higher.

This is my fifth season with the senior team, my seventh season overall - the first couple of years in the academy I wasn't involved - but in my last season in the academy and the next four, including this one, I have been fully integrated.

When I came into the academy in September 2009 I never envisaged getting to the 100th cap mark. I was more worried about whether I would even get one cap.

Focus

To get that in the Sportsground this evening, it's something I am really proud of. It's a great achievement, and I am lucky enough to do it for my home province too.

We had a really positive last three weeks building into this game. The results haven't been where we wanted them to be, and we are a bit off the pace of where we were last year.

We have hit high levels but let standards drop at times in games, and our biggest focus is on playing consistently well. At times we have played as good as we have ever played, but we haven't been able to keep that intensity high enough consistently.

But we have more bodies coming back, and that gives you more options in training, and adds much-needed competition. That adds more bite, a bit more fire.

Competition is great, and the squad is in a very good place. We have got some really good work done and we are raring to go this evening.

But you need to transfer that into game-time; it's all well and good training to win but we have to transfer that onto the pitch. And that is a challenge, but once you do stuff well enough it will you give you confidence.

When it comes to a game situation, it is a different pressure and the skills become harder to execute. But at the same time, we take the confidence that we have executed it at a high level in training and it's just about going out there and doing what we have done. Hopefully the hard work will stand to us.

We are at the tail end of November now, so between now and the New Year is a big period for us. We have got Cardiff and Treviso, two home games in the Pro12, and given our league position, we need two wins now, and we need to perform.

After that we have Wasps back to back; they are one of the top teams in Europe. Following on from there we have Ulster and then Munster on New Year's Eve so it really is a tough run of fixtures.

But it is exciting for this club and it's why you play rugby. The big thing is that people can stay fit, and I hope that I can stay fit to add some competition to training and put my hand up for selection all the way through.

You play rugby to play against the best teams, and certainly some of the opposition we face off against in the next few weeks is right up there with the best in the world. The whole group here are really looking forward to it.

It's great as well when you see Ireland doing so well and beating New Zealand in Chicago. Yes they lost last weekend, but they still went toe-to-toe with the reigning two-time world champions for 80 minutes. It's a performance they can all be proud of.

In those big games there are going to be stages when you need the rub of the green or the bounce of the ball, and I feel Ireland didn't get that in the Aviva Stadium last weekend. If they had, it could have been a whole different scoreline. There wasn't much in that game at all. And deep down all of those players know how well they played and it must be a huge confidence booster.

It's great to see our own Connacht guys up there. We see how hard they work here and so for them to be involved and to do the province proud, it's fantastic.

Of course all of that motivates you. You want to be involved and to get the opportunity to perform to those levels as well.

It's great for Irish rugby to be playing so well on the world stage, and it transfers down to all of the provinces.

You look at the Canada game in particular. They weren't the best team in world rugby, but they were an international side, and the Connacht players were some of the best performers on the field that day.

Hopefully we will see more of that going forward.

Irish Independent

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