Player diary - Fergus McFadden: Six Nations juggling act all part of game
Working between two camps tests you hugely but it has been great to be back involved with Ireland
It's been a mixed few weeks emotionally as I have had to juggle the training and game time between Leinster and Ireland. While it does present challenges like that, after getting called back into camp I was delighted to be back in the fold and eager to try and impress in training in Carton House.
The lads were fairly banged up after the physicality and intensity of the first game against Wales and with a couple of injuries early in the French week, I got my chance to be involved as I was named on the bench for that game.
Again the physicality was testing early on and Dave Kearney was blind-sided by a tackle from the French hooker Guilhem Guirado and unfortunately for Davey it forced him to come off with a shoulder injury. As a sub, you are always ready and tuned in for games but it's not often in Test rugby you get brought on after 20 minutes or so. Thankfully, I had some early involvements to help me fit into the team systems.
The French are a much improved side under Guy Noves and are noticeably better as a collective than they were the last few seasons and during the World Cup. They have become better defensively and are more difficult to break down.
The weather presented a tougher task when it was very wet as it became quite difficult to shift the point of attack against them. It placed more importance on the set-piece and I felt that played into their hands a little bit.
Losing over there by a point, 10-9, was bitterly disappointing and really highlighted how tough a place it is to go and come away with a victory. It's been a bit of a graveyard for Irish rugby over the past 10 years and unfortunately we will have to wait another two campaigns to go back and get the better of them.
The following week presented more game-time for me with Leinster away to Cardiff on the astroturf pitch there. They have had good form at home this season so we knew it was not going to be easy heading over to get four points. It's safe to say the conditions we played in were the worst I have experienced since I turned professional. I think I saw Isa saying somewhere recently that it was the coldest game he has ever played in and he wasn't far off it!
But it was the rain and the wind that was the most difficult aspect to manage. Throwing five-metre passes was a challenge in itself so looking back on it, it was a credit to both teams that the standard of the game remained reasonably high all things considered!
I got sin-binned for a "no arms" and "high" tackle in the middle of the first half which was disappointing for me. I felt it was somewhat harsh considering I hit him below his shoulder line and had the clear intention of wrapping my arms. Thankfully, it did not cost us in the long run as we held on in the second period against a gale of a wind to win narrowly at the end.
The lads did a fantastic job last week against Zebre away to get all five points from the trip, and again, in horrendous playing conditions. We really have had to play in awful conditions lately. Newport a few weeks ago was bad but Cardiff and Zebre were worse. Having failed to get even a losing bonus point in Newport, maybe with the two wins in Cardiff and Zebre we are getting used to it. We'd be just as happy to see the end of it tomorrow though.
The wins against Cardiff and Zebre leave us in a promising position in the league table but we have a tough task ahead with some tough fixtures remaining.
It places even more importance on a win at home against the Ospreys who will be desperate to put themselves back into position for the play-offs as they currently sit outside the top four.
They started the season very poorly during the World Cup but since then have only lost two in the last ten Guinness Pro12 games.
Having lost to them in Pro12 Finals before, we know as a group the quality that the Ospreys present and they have put in some big performances away this season. Hopefully we can use the RDS and home support as an advantage for us. So get down in blue to make the difference!