Saturday 10 December 2016

Watching what the lads are doing on the pitch, I can't wait to get back

Player diary: Denis Buckley

Published 21/10/2016 | 02:30

Cian Kelleher in action during the Guinness Pro 12 clash away to Zebre. Photo by Daniele Buffa/Sportsfile
Cian Kelleher in action during the Guinness Pro 12 clash away to Zebre. Photo by Daniele Buffa/Sportsfile

It's been a few weeks now since I got injured and I'm going through my rehab with a view to coming back as soon as possible. Normally with the injuries I suffered you would expect to be out for a few months, but thankfully, this week I got back into the full upper and lower-body weights and I'm running, which is a huge plus.

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The leg brace is off now - the leg stabilised nicely and it allowed me to hit the pool for some cardio sessions. Saying all that, the pool isn't ideal either, because I have to put a float between my legs.

When I got injured it wasn't just my knee that I hurt, my elbow got slightly damaged in the game before Edinburgh, so it was important to give it some time to heal while I was off.

So the majority of my training has been one on one with the physio or by myself doing different rehab exercises for my elbow and knee. A lot of the stuff is in my own time.

Even with regards to skill work I have been limited because I am trying to mind the elbow. This week I ramped it up and I was back doing ball work with Dave Ellis to keep that on point.

There's no shortage of motivation for me either - I see what the guys are doing out on the pitch and I can't wait to be out there in the thick of it again.

Fashion

It was brilliant to start off our Champions Cup campaign with a win over Toulouse, and especially in that fashion.

It was on the back of some hard work and hard learnings at the start of the season when we lost three games in a row. And no matter what the pundits were saying, we certainly had full confidence in our game-plan, that we could beat them.

There is a big emphasis on ball-handling work and skill-work down here, and it certainly came to fruition in the game.

We trusted our game-plan. There were times when we were holding onto the ball and moving it wide against a big defensive line, but we trusted our breakdown and the fact that we could tire them out and it worked.

It probably took us a little bit longer than we wanted to, but in the end we did wear them down and got those valuable four points.

They were gigantic men. Look at prop Census Johnston and the locks that they had behind him - they are all huge players. But on top of that they have a great scrum and they have put a lot of work into it.

When you have good technique and the weight behind you, they are a difficult proposition. But we are disappointed with how the scrum went.

Going into the game, we knew they had a good scrum and it was something they used a lot in the Top 14, and they were looking to exert dominance on us.

We knew that was coming and we would have liked to defend against it a little better.

Nearly every scrum they had, they got a penalty from in the first half, and that wasn't good enough on our part.

We pride ourselves on our scrum and we put a lot of work into it so it was disappointing, but it didn't cost us the game.

We can take it as a learning going forward about what we need to get right. Hopefully that experience will stand to everyone.

This game against Zebre will be very different, but it won't be any easier. These guys nearly beat us in Italy a few weeks ago and we know the threat they possess.

It was a tough game in Parma last time out. Although it was an evening kick-off it was really humid and it was tough running in it. We didn't hit our top level and they got some early tries which frustrated us.

If the game had gone ahead in the second half, it was going to be a tough one to claw back. It could have been a get out of jail situation, but I like to think that coming out after half-time we would have imposed ourselves on them better, and won that game.

Zebre are going to be wound up - they weren't happy about that last game. And they rested a few lads last weekend when they were hammered by Wasps. That didn't give a true reflection of how good they are, and they are always better at home.

Zebre are going to be targeting this game because we are the reigning Pro12 champions and they know us so well from the league. They will have the fresher players so it's going to be tough.

But it's a game we have to win, we have given ourselves a great start in the pool now. If you look at the bigger picture to go over to Zebre and get four or five points would be pretty important.

It's a massive game for us and hopefully we can take the momentum from the last few weekend's win and bring it into this game.

But it's difficult to focus solely on the game on the pitch, after the week that has been, with the passing of a true rugby great in Anthony Foley.

The Munster head coach was just 42 when he passed away last Sunday, and it was too early for one of the legends of Irish rugby.

Things like that put the game in perspective. Rugby is just a game and there are more important things in life. It was a sombre mood in the Sportsground on Monday and that carried through the week.

The thoughts of the Connacht squad are with Munster, and especially Anthony's wife Olive and his children at this tough time

Irish Independent

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