Friday 9 December 2016

On the home straight at last but returning from injury is slow work

Denis Hurley

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

Robin Copeland takes on the Ospreys defence in Munster’s victory in Wales
Robin Copeland takes on the Ospreys defence in Munster’s victory in Wales

It was a great start to the World Cup for Ireland last weekend - five points and no injuries is the perfect way to kick it off, and they were clinical in their display.

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In the first 40 minutes Ireland looked very good. There were a few small handling errors and missed passes but overall they performed really well, and by the fact they had the job done at half-time, they probably took the foot off the pedal a bit in the second half.

Mentally, they slackened off a little but that's good, even ahead of the Romania game. The Oaks may not be a top-tier side either but it means Ireland still have something to work on in their own game.

They can improve on those things that they didn't execute well, especially in the second half of the game against Canada at the Millennium Stadium.

That will stand to them. Every mistake they made will be meticulously scrutinised by Joe Schmidt and his coaching staff, and there will be areas for the players to concentrate on.

Players will know exactly what to do in every facet of their play, or as much as is possible anyway.

Quality

That will hopefully provide the basis for two good performances, which Ireland will need because Italy and France are two quality sides.

Against Canada, Ireland were just too strong, and in recognising the positive performance it is still early days. Romania will be slightly better again - they are higher in the world rankings; they are always big men and over the years they have always had strong packs.

It will be a bit of a challenge up front, but at the same time you would expect Ireland to front up and battle it out, and get the win.

Other players will get the chance to play, and all will be looking to impress Joe Schmidt by putting in a performance.

If Ireland can continue to build on last week they should put up a good show and it will instil more confidence.

There are some places up for grabs with players looking to find their way into the team for the bigger matches ahead. Every player in the squad wants to be a permanent fixture in the side, and competition is always great - especially when it comes at a time of a major tournament like the World Cup.

From a neutral's perspective, Japan were definitely the biggest winners in the opening weekend though.

What a performance they produced to beat South Africa - it was hugely enjoyable to watch.

I didn't think they would beat the Springboks at the weekend, but the game continues to grow rapidly in Japan, and there is a strong Kiwi and Aussie influence over there in terms of coaching staff and players.

If you can get a few good players nationalised, they add to the quality of the side and that sort of a win is massive for the development and promotion of the game of rugby.

It was one of the biggest shocks ever in the Rugby World Cup, and it will be interesting to see what else can happen in that regard, throughout the tournament.

But while the World Cup continues to take centre stage at the moment, Munster prepare for a massive game against Glasgow next weekend.

From a personal perspective I'm now in the advanced stages of my rehab, but I haven't quite got to the contact phase just yet. I hurt ligaments in my ankle in training about six weeks ago, and it's not a simple injury so it takes its time to heal.

The ankle itself is okay but it's a case of getting it back to where it was before I had the injury, so I will just try to get the strength back up in it from here.

That takes time. I have begun to run a good bit now, and I will slowly build it up. It is definitely good to be heading in the right direction.

I haven't started with the contact side of things just yet - they would normally give you a small bit of contact the week before you are fully back into it, and it will be a light enough work-load, when I do that initially.

Usually the process takes place over three sessions - level one is easy, and by the time you get through level three you are basically back into full-contact training.

I can't wait to get back into it now especially because I'm not used to an injury like this. A lot of my injuries in the past have been muscle tears - you get a lot more feedback from those kind of things, and progression can be a lot easier with them.

The lads that have been fit and that played already, had a week off last week to re-charge the batteries. And they're in a good place after two Pro12 games, with two wins.

It was good for those involved in both games to be rewarded with some time off after the huge win away to Ospreys. It freshens up the bodies and minds, and hopefully that will stand to them for the next block.

The Glasgow game will be a big one, we have placed a huge focus on it, and it's important we are in the best shape physically and mentally. That will be a big game for us especially after the way the final went last year, and we'll certainly look to put in a performance at home.

It will be the first game in Thomond Park and the guys are really focused on it and want to put their best foot forward in training, over these two weeks.

Three wins from three at the start of the season would be huge, especially against some quality opposition.

Irish Independent

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