Tuesday 27 June 2017

It's not losing if you are learning

Last week's trip to Scotland was disappointing on a personal note but there were still plenty of positives in defeat

Leinster’s Fergus McFadden says seeing Ian McKinley back at the RDS was a special moment
Leinster’s Fergus McFadden says seeing Ian McKinley back at the RDS was a special moment
Leinster rugby players Noel Reid, left, and Fergus McFadden pose for a photograph with participants, from left, Colm O'Donovan, aged 7, from Donnybrook, Ríodhna McGrath and Becky McGrath, both age 9 from Donnybrook, and Sean Rooney, age 7, from Ranelagh, at the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camp at Donnybrook Stadium, Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Leinster’s Fergus McFadden pictured left with 10-year-old Holly Bale from Kildare Town during the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camp earlier this summer

A new year, a new season and a new chapter in the Leinster history book. With a good pre-season under our belts we got off to a winning start in the first Guinness PRO12 home game of the season at the RDS.

It certainly wasn't the complete performance we were looking for but it was never going to be in the first competitive run out. Beating the Italian sides is not a foregone conclusion anymore.

Treviso arrived into Dublin with confidence, with a new coach and with three really good pre-season performances under their belts. They also have a side that is littered with Italian internationals and has an old Leinster man Ian McKinley in their ranks.

Seeing him back at the RDS was a special moment for Ian and for everyone involved in his journey, not least his family and friends. He deserved the warm reception he received and I hope he enjoyed being back.

But for us and in that 80, he was just another Treviso player and he, like the rest of them, made us work very hard in our first night back at the office together.

That game against Treviso stands out for other reasons apart from being the season opener. It was also the last game under the expert tutelage of our scrum coach Kurt McQuilkin.

Having to say goodbye to Kurt after the positive impact he has had on the club in the past few years is a big blow for everyone. I was lucky enough to work with Kurt in his first stint as a coach with Michael Cheika so I would have got to know him well over the years.

While on the training ground or in the review room or in the gym, he was a brilliant defensive coach. Very technical and analytical. He knew his stuff and was very good at getting his message across. Hugely passionate too about the role and what was required.

But more than that, his permanent energy and positivity around UCD will be missed hugely. Kurt and his family will remain in our thoughts and I would like to acknowledge the brilliant response from the Leinster supporters as we all did our bit with the Shave or Dye campaign.

With Kurt's sad departure, it left the door open and the question was who would be next in?

Last Monday was an unusual one for the squad then as we were introduced to our new senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Stuart has stepped into a senior coaching role for the team and it is a really strong statement by Leinster to bring in a coach of such quality and experience.

I always admired the job he did with England during the time he was there and restored them to a force to be reckoned with in Test rugby. I am really looking forward to working with him on a personal level and also seeing what strengths he will bring to the group. It's exciting for Leinster.

With some new pointers from Stuart added to Leo's blueprint we were primed to go to Scotstoun in Glasgow looking for a win against a team in top form.

Their performance against the reigning Pro12 champions Connacht in Galway was very impressive for the first game of the season so we knew that they would have their tails up when we arrived for their first home game of the year.

Games against Glasgow have been traditionally high scoring the last few years and with a new artificial surface it promised to be even more so. We were well aware going over that our defence needed to put in a big showing.

I was training and preparing to start the game on the wing all week but I felt my quad during the captain's run on Friday. I travelled over to the game hoping that I'd be involved but I woke up on Saturday morning with little improvement so the medical team decided to pull me from the game unfortunately.

It was an empty feeling receiving the news over there in the hotel after looking forward to the game all week but it was the right call as the season is only beginning.

Watching from the dug out was a bitter pill to swallow but it was great to see the lads play brilliantly in the first half. With three tries on the board and everything going to plan we went in at half-time looking in a really strong position and I felt Glasgow were really there for the taking if we kept up that intensity.

Glasgow had other ideas however when they ran in two quick tries through Tommy Seymour early in the second half. The Scottish wing is on a hot streak at the moment and went on to score four in the game.

Looking at the tries it was disappointing because I felt they didn't have to play that much rugby to run in 21 points in the second 40 minutes. That again is a lesson for us. Good teams punish you.

As gutting as it was for the group to come away from Glasgow with nothing to show from the massive effort I feel like there were some good lessons learned from the game. It's not losing if you are learning and we certainly have learnt a lot from the areas that went wrong last week. We follow that up with another tough away fixture against Edinburgh tomorrow.

We have players returning from Ireland duty to strengthen the deck so we will be fully focused on going back to Scotland but this time we're planning on coming away with the win. It's a massive challenge but we are looking to right the wrongs from last week.

Irish Independent

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