This week was a chance to focus on tests ahead
Published 18/11/2016 | 02:30
The week off was pretty good, and it was nice to re-gather, get some down time with family and friends, and have a chance to enjoy a few of the international games.
However, everyone in the club is now working towards the game against a strong Cardiff Blues side next weekend.
With the week off just before a big Pro12 fixture it provides us with a kind of in-season pre-season. We have the chance to get guys back in and heal some existing niggles they might have, while also being able to address some things, technically, that we want to go through before our preparation heading into Cardiff. We will revisit all areas of how we play in the week - units, skills, contact, attack and defence.
On Wednesday, we had a community visit to schools in Carraroe and Clifden as well as Connemara RFC, and we all know how important it is to get out into the community.
The guys really enjoyed the day in Kinvara a few weeks back, and it was another chance to experience something different rather than the normal training week. Some of the players shared their experiences around peer pressure, bullying and mental health awareness. Unfortunately, these are all too common experiences facing young people throughout the country.
We did some light drills with the young children out on the pitch at Connemara RFC as well which was really enjoyable. It's fantastic to see the enjoyment both the young players and even our own players get out of the community visits. Everyone gets a lot out of the day.
There was a good bit of niggle in training during the week and all the players are keen to stake their claim for a place in the team against Cardiff. And we are really looking forward to getting back into the Guinness Pro12 competition once again.
In the meantime it has all been about the autumn internationals, and it was massive for Ireland to put out a strong performance against Canada last weekend. After the win over New Zealand in Chicago, which was a huge result for everyone in the whole country, to back it up again with such a young, changed team and such a good display was crucial.
And it was great to see all of our boys doing so well too. The progress those guys have made is in line with our vision here at Connacht Rugby. As a province, we have focused on the Grassroots to Green Shirts campaign in the last few years, and it's great to see these guys come all the way from the Connacht academy, and then to work their way up through the ranks to full internationals.
But not only that, there are the likes of Niyi Adeolokun who didn't come through our academy, but came here from club side Trinity and made the most of the opportunities presented to him.
The most satisfying aspect for us is that the players who have gone on to wear the Irish jersey, have performed for the club and now their country. It's a massive boost to those aspiring to emulate them on the same pathway. It's great to see them involved at the highest level.
Another massive weekend of international rugby lies ahead, with Ireland hosting New Zealand in Dublin. It's set up to be a great game of rugby, with the All Blacks welcoming back some big names into their squad. Ireland too will have a lot of confidence on the back of two strong performances in the weeks past. It should prove to be a fascinating game. We are all very much looking forward to the international game and to being back at the Sportsground again next Friday night.
It's a huge boost to have two back-to-back home games coming up with Cardiff and Treviso both coming to the Sportsground. We know we need to get back to consistent performances in the Pro12 championship and we are confident we can do that.
But it will only come on the back of quality training and the hard work we put in during the week. That's always been the focus for us as a team.