Friday 26 May 2017

After tough few weeks, all eyes now on Europe

Crucial period on the way as we look to address some of our Champions Cup failings of last season

Isa Nacewa touches down during Leinster’s Pro12 win over Munster at the Aviva Stadium.
Isa Nacewa touches down during Leinster’s Pro12 win over Munster at the Aviva Stadium.

Player Diary: Isa Nacewa

Perspective. It can be a wonderful thing. But it can also come and hit you right when you least expect it and in the most powerful of ways. And, unfortunately for us all in Leinster, we all got a big reminder of the power of perspective over the last few weeks.

As we went about our business preparing for games and training on a daily basis and just getting on with life, one of our team-mates, one of our brothers, Hayden Triggs, and his wife Mikala, were going through unbearable heartache.

Isa Nacewa at training this week ahead of tomorrow’s Champions Cup clash at home to Castres
Isa Nacewa at training this week ahead of tomorrow’s Champions Cup clash at home to Castres

Their beloved daughter Stella Amaia was born prematurely in Holles Street and tragically she passed away after putting up a very brave fight.

On behalf of everyone in Leinster Rugby, I would like to thank the supporters at the game in the Aviva last week, both Leinster and Munster, who observed a minute's silence in Stella's memory. It was impeccably observed and meant a lot to Hayden and Mikala.

In celebrating Stella's short life, Hayden wanted to pay tribute to the wonderful staff in Unit 8 in Holles Street and to raise awareness of the National Maternity Hospital Foundation and the #HelpHollesStreet campaign. Please check out their site and see for yourself the wonderful work that they do. So as we again set our sights on matters on-field, I would like to acknowledge Hayden and Mikala, their kids Adelaide and August, and of course Stella. They are still very much in our thoughts.

With six rounds of the Guinness Pro12 done, things are about to change and you can feel it. There's a cold bite in the air. The first Leinster versus Munster battle is out of the way. The Gilbert balls are back on the field. All signs spell out the start of the Champions Cup.

Garry Ringrose looks sure to play a big role against the visitors
Garry Ringrose looks sure to play a big role against the visitors

There's nothing quite like the start to the Champions Cup. That being said, the week building up to Munster wasn't far off it! But there is something different to this no doubt about it.

Everyone here at Leinster is on edge to make a spot on the starting XV. The intensity at training goes through the roof. We have one focus and one focus only - Castres. 3.15pm, tomorrow, in the RDS.

In the RDS. That has also taken on a new life this season, I feel. There's been a greater feeling from the players of playing for the Leinster supporters. We have said for some time now that we have such loyal fans. It has to also be said that this doesn't just stay within the walls of the RDS. They pop up everywhere and on every away trip.

And there is one thing we cannot get away from. We know we have to repay them after the disappointment of our last European campaign. Record defeats, only one win from six. It's not what we are about and we have to show that on Saturday.

The supporters gave us a timely reminder last week of just how powerful that support is. To have over 40,000 show up at the Aviva last week was spectacular. So that has driven us and the thought of running out to a packed RDS is motivating and adds to the intensity of the week. So, where are we at as we head into the first game of the Champions Cup?

Off the field, huge credit must go to the coaches, the medics, the S&C team and all the backroom staff. Leo and Stuart and all the coaches have done weeks of prep to get us ready for this game. We have improved week on week through the Guinness Pro12 and I think we can be proud of our efforts.

But we all know how much we need to do take a step up tomorrow.

It has also been a pretty exciting few weeks on the field and we are all excited by some of the things we have seen.

It was great to see Robbie Henshaw firing on all cylinders on his debut against Munster. Then you had Garry Ringrose (pictured opposite) doing things only Garry Ringrose can do. Ian Nagle, our new lock, stepping up into a crucial role in the second-row. Dan Leavy bursting out of the blocks in the flanks. There's a great feeling in the squad at the moment and, fingers crossed, it will last.

Irish Independent

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