Player Diary: Mike Ross - We're learning all the time in game of inches
You can't stay still and we've made sure we'll learn from lessons of the last few weeks
So last week didn't really get off to a great start. The forwards had to sit down and sift through the detritus from the Bath game and it didn't make for pretty viewing the second time around either.
Basically had our scrum performed like it usually can, we would have won that game, and got our European season back on track. Unfortunately, we had a really bad day at the office in that particular set-piece, and we had a look through to find out why.
Generally, if the scrum goes well it's because of the collective, and if it goes poorly it's also because of the collective. Bath were more cohesive and had better timing than we did and they reaped the rewards because of that. The front-row had met the day before to look at the scrum specifically, and we were fairly annoyed at ourselves. The good news is it's nothing that we can't fix and we've been working hard on addressing the issues. Ultimately, the experience was a chastening one, but one that hopefully will make us stronger.
For me, there wouldn't be a chance to get back on the horse against Ulster, as this week I was on a "booster" schedule. What this basically involves is a little block of pre-season, and to give your body a bit of time off from contact. Accordingly, I was greeted with the charmingly named 'The Tight-head Destroyer' on the whiteboard in the gym which involved a lot of tyre flips, burpees, and sled pushing. The session wasn't very long, about 30 minutes, but it was continuous and myself and fellow sufferer, Richardt Strauss, were fairly destroyed after it. It was a theme that continued the following day, with Dan Tobin, the Leinster head of fitness, coming up with another inventive circuit to test the body's limits.
I've recently started trying my hand at scrum coaching, and I've quite enjoyed it so far. I was given the opportunity to do a bit of work with UCD and things seem to going well enough. I go out to Belfield a few nights a month, and it's been interesting to see things from the coach's perspective.
It takes a bit of time to find your 'voice' and how to deliver a concise and clear message that will be taken up and bought into by the players. Often I find myself going off on tangents when I remember something else relevant, and it's important that you stay on message.
There's a lot of work being done behind the scenes to drive a good scrum culture in Ireland, chiefly overseen by Irish scrum coach Greg Feek. Having a central oversight helps get a good consistency throughout the provinces, and all the different coaches have been good at sharing knowledge.
Still, though, it's very satisfying to see improvements in the UCD scrum and there's quite a bit of talent coming through there too. The lads are pretty thirsty for knowledge, and they play in a very competitive league of a high standard. The All-Ireland League is an invaluable resource and plenty of players have come through into the professional ranks without ever having seen an academy, myself included!
On Thursday morning, I woke up not feeling too great. I noticed during weights that I was struggling to lift stuff I'd usually warm up with, and sure enough the following evening I got a nice visit from Mr Flu. We're all routinely given the 'flu vaccine every year, but it doesn't protect against every strain out there. Thankfully, the symptoms departed after a couple of days.
This weekend we've got the Pro12 champions Glasgow. They're likely to be at full strength, and boast a lot of Scottish internationals like Ryan Grant, Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss, as well as Fijian star Leone Nakawara who could offload out of a crowded telephone booth! They've Finn Russell at 10 to pull the strings and Stuart Hogg as one of the chief danger men. We're currently fourth, and they're only a point behind us in the table, so whoever wins will stay in that crucial top-four slot.
We had a good win against Ulster, so it's critical that we keep the momentum going ahead of a few big weeks.