It's not about winning at this stage of the season
Published 28/08/2015 | 02:30
As a squad it's been a long two-and-a-bit months since we got back into pre-season training, but now that we're getting game-time under our belts again, lads are really beginning to feel the excitement of a new season just around the corner.
For the players it's all about getting game-time now; it's about transitioning from the strength and conditioning side of our preparation into the rugby side of it; it's about getting fellas used to playing the game again, recovering, turning up and training again.
We were not too happy with the results and certain aspects of the performances in our two pre-season friendlies to date, but as a coaching team we have taken a lot of positives from the games against Grenoble and Connacht.
Ideally we would have two wins in the bag, have scored lots of tries and be tight in defence, but it's not about winning at this stage for us - that comes in a fortnight.
It's all about guys playing for position, creating competition and about having a look at players. Lads have put it in the work in pre-season and have earned the right to wear the jersey, so hopefully we'll seen more of that in the next fortnight.
In training and in the two games I've looked at the guys and I'm very conscious of the fact that a number of them haven't played a lot of rugby over the last six months.
And I think it's unfair to totally assess them solely on what they've done so far. Some of them have only played 40 or 50 minutes, it's about getting game-time in their legs and letting them get their form back.
But we're well aware that time is running out as well. We're playing Treviso in a week's time and after these three games I'll have my 15 in my head.
It's up to the lads to force their way in there. There are positions up for grabs so it will be an interesting time for everyone.
While we carried a lot of replacements in the first two games, it'll be a bit tighter tonight against London Irish.
We still need to get a few more bodies out on the pitch and I still need to see a number of players again, but this is my last real opportunity to do it. I need to make good use of that chance.
Like every new season the faces have changed slightly around the place, especially with all the lads that are away on Ireland duty.
But we're happy: the new players have slotted in very well, a lot of the long-term injured lads are finding their feet again, and the academy lads are taking their opportunity and looking to create a reputation.
These young lads will likely come back to us within a year or two - some of them might be quicker than that - but it's up to the player himself in how quickly he grasps what we're doing.
I'm happy though, I'm getting a lot of confidence from looking at some of these players.
Overall, as a group we're going quite well. Obviously the results aren't showing that, but we don't play for keeps for another week yet. By then we'll hopefully have the few issues ironed out.
Meanwhile, this weekend is a massive time for our lads that are involved in Ireland camp. They'll be getting the good or bad news at some stage in the next few days and everybody is hopeful that none of them come back to us yet.
But if they do, we need to be prepared for the fella that is crestfallen. It'll be hard news to take at the time; it's tough to miss out having gotten this close to going to a World Cup.
For us it's about making sure those lads are dealt with in the right manner and helping them through it. Hopefully we don't have that issue next Monday, hopefully all our guys who are up there still have a good World Cup and come back to us fit and healthy.
The World Cup is a massive competition and I was fortunate enough to get to two of them. It's something that every player would look back at and cherish.
You work so hard throughout your career to get in there; it's tough to force your way in and then you have to try and stay in there; you have to make sure you're at the forefront and you don't let anyone in your position ahead of you.
All you can do is everything in your power, but you are just hoping Joe Schmidt isn't ringing you on Sunday or Monday morning, because he won't be delivering good news at that stage. Best of luck to the lads.