Anthony Foley: Decent win over Exiles has us ready for Treviso test
With pre-season behind us now, all focus has turned towards our opening Guinness Pro12 clash with Treviso tomorrow evening at Irish Independent Park.
With three games in the bag we are pretty satisfied with how we've gone in pre-season. We had a couple of disappointing results, some satisfactory performances and some excellent ones.
With a win under our belts last weekend against London Irish, I'm happy that we're ready for the first game.
I thought we went okay last weekend. We took our tries well, but we shipped a couple of soft ones late on that left us a small bit frustrated.
As expected we got a very good, physical contest out of London Irish. It was their first hit-out in pre-season so they wouldn't have been as sharp as we were.
But still we were very comfortable for most of the game and that's not a bad way to be, going into tomorrow's game.
The real worry for everyone was the bang that Francis Saili took last weekend, but thankfully he won't be out of action for too long.
He came off with concussion and it was the correct course of action to take all precautions. That evening at the hospital, we were happy to hear that everything was clear, all the scans were clear and he was good to go home the following day.
The care he got at Cork University Hospital was second to none and I think Francis appreciated that.
His health is the most important thing and hopefully we'll see him again soon.
On the field, we realised that we still had a few things to work on. Ideally we would have liked a bit better execution from some of our lineout work. It was a bit scrappy at times, which then doesn't allow you to be as crisp as you'd like to be as a backline.
In the scrum I thought we were dominant apart from one five metres from the opposition line, and there were a couple where I thought different to the referee.
One in particular was awarded against us for whipping the scrum, but when you look at it, the only feet that are moving are London Irish feet.
That type of call is something that has been highlighted at the highest level; it's something that most people are aware of and it was unfortunate to see us getting penalised in such a strong position.
Another work-on for us was that we didn't manage to get our maul away, but we've worked hard on that again this week. And while there are areas we can tidy up, there are also massive areas of growth in our ball retention and in our ability to beat people one on one.
It's comforting to know that we have stuff to build on, but we do also have an appreciation that we're only in week ten of our season and the season goes on for 40-odd weeks. It's a bit of a slog and we need to be prepared to work hard.
First up we have the significant test of Treviso at home to consider. We understand how good they are going to be and how good they were when we played them in April.
They caused us a lot of trouble last time out, but that's what you get from quality rugby players. They do have an ability to upset you and have the ability to play with the ball for long periods.
We're expecting a very tough test tomorrow, but the other side of the battle is that we're going to play each other four times this season with the Champions Cup draw. There is a lot of water to pass under the bridge between these two sides this year.
And while we were busy preparing for this game, a few of our lads had the roller-coaster ride of finding out if they made the cut for the Ireland squad.
Unfortunately Dave Kilcoyne and Felix Jones missed out and this is a hard place for them to be. But they are coming back into a group that will welcome them back in and make sure they're okay.
They are professional players and they understand the ups and downs of the game. Some days it goes for you and some days it goes against you.
I'm sure that wasn't an easy decision for the management to make, but who's to say they won't have an involvement in the World Cup yet. They need to be prepared for that. Hopefully we get the best out of them while they are with us and we get the benefits out of that, starting tomorrow.