Sunday 11 December 2016

Injury not as bad as first feared - I'm gunning for Zebre return

Denis Hurley

Published 11/03/2016 | 02:30

James Cronin takes on the Dragons defence. Photo: Sportsfile
James Cronin takes on the Dragons defence. Photo: Sportsfile

It's a big weekend for Irish rugby as the Pro12 takes a break until next week for us, when we clash with Cardiff in the re-fixed Round 12 game. I won't be involved unfortunately after I had a bit of an injury setback, but I hope to return very soon.

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Just as I made a return to full training I picked up a further tear in the same calf as before. Thankfully it's looking good and seems to be rehabbing well, and I'm happy with it. It's just about being mindful and making sure that the strength is right in the calf area before I make a return to full training.

I need to make sure I don't have any problems arising again as soon as I'm back. It's a setback and it's frustrating but I just have to get it right. Then once I'm back playing hopefully it will be good for the remainder of the season and I'll be able to get some good game-time under my belt again.

The Zebre game is what I'm aiming for but I just need to make sure the calf is right first and foremost before I get back playing. I'm feeling great now and it just needs that bit of time to re-adjust to running.

Sticky

It was a great performance from the lads to come away with a bonus point win against a very good Dragons side. They are always a sticky outfit to play at home or away. It was very important to get that victory at this stage and the bonus point is invaluable.

The way the fixtures are falling, a lot of the teams ahead of us are playing each other in the remaining games. We still have to play inter-provincial derbies again Connacht and Leinster away from home.

Saying all that, every game is important and we have to make sure that we pick up as many points as possible. We hold ourselves to a high regard and every game we play we are looking to win. Cardiff is the next one up and they are just off the back of a couple of good results, and have done well at home to Irish sides.

They seem to be strong finishers too. They beat Connacht a few months ago, and Ulster more recently, with two late tries. When you are looking at teams like that, they have a bounce in their step. They will be looking forward to playing Munster especially on their home ground.

But we have to take confidence from our recent results also, and it all feeds into your preparation and next performance. Those big away wins could be important to push us up the table.

We just have to take it game by game and prepare ourselves as best we can. We know we are in a position to fight for a top four finish, and it's just about getting the points on the board, taking opportunities like we haven't at times this season.

Going back to the inter-pros, they are two games that are further down the line and always big days out but we have to get through these next rounds first and look after what's in our control. It's how we can handle and manage ourselves, and our performances.

That does come down to how confident we are in ourselves. We can see the frustrations where we have been creating opportunities but haven't been able to finish the chances that we have made for ourselves, however slowly but surely we seem to be turning that back on its head.

As we saw last weekend, four tries are important and getting the bonus point at home is a massive boost. Those added points make all the difference. We are in a good position but we know that there is going to be a tough road ahead, and we need to really start pressing if we want to continue moving up the table.

But before that it's the return of Six Nations rugby and Ireland are playing Italy this weekend. There's a fair bit of pressure on them to produce a comprehensive win against the Italians.

Expectation-wise Ireland would have been in contention with England and Wales to win the tournament before it began. The disappointment now is they have come out of the first three games with only a draw, and with both sides without a win you know it will be a huge physical battle.

Italy have shown what they can do when pushing France very close and Ireland have also shown their finer moments with the performance against Wales, the first half in France and for long periods of the England game.

It's just the finishing ability and the decision-making that cost Ireland. Italy are probably looking at Ireland and seeing this as an opportunity. But the Irish will be frustrated with themselves, they know they could have much more from their first three outings and to only come away with one point, I'd say there'll be a backlash.

I'd back Ireland to beat them, it will be a tight game for most of it, but it will make for some great viewing anyway.

Finally I want to give my thoughts on a topic that has come up for discussion in the last few weeks with the issue of school kids being allowed to tackle in matches. IRUPA ran a survey and the results came back that 99pc of professional players agree that underage rugby should continue as normal with tackling.

I believe it's part and parcel of the development of becoming a rugby player, and banning tackling would take away from the game massively.

The unions around the world and the IRFU are always looking at making sure the game is as safe as possible and education and correct tackle technique is most important at development stage.

Irish Independent

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