Monday 5 December 2016

There's nothing like Thomond on a Saturday night with a full crowd

Denis Hurley

Published 13/11/2015 | 02:30

Tomas O’Leary at training in Limerick ahead of this weekend’s clash against Treviso
Tomas O’Leary at training in Limerick ahead of this weekend’s clash against Treviso

It's a great time to be involved with the squad as we head into another massive Champions Cup campaign off the back of some impressive Pro12 victories.

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Personally I feel like I've really got back to full match fitness now, and it's just all about the contact that I get on the ball.

After returning from injury I have played 168 minutes of rugby in the last four games, with two starts and two replacement appearances to my name.

In Edinburgh last weekend I came off the bench and was glad to be involved in such a great win, although the last few moments were touch and go! The role of the replacement is a funny one, especially when you get 10 minutes to prove yourself on the pitch as the lads fatigue around you.

There's a certain degree of pressure there and the key thing is communication because you might not touch the ball at all in those few minutes that you're on the field.

So if you can't directly affect the play you need to ensure that you are adding to the game in different ways, and sometimes it can be an under-appreciated role.

A replacement goes out and warms-up with the rest of the team before the game - then they go back into the changing rooms to prep for the match and then sit on the bench.

Cycle

Throughout the game you warm up, and then you cool down, and constantly repeat the cycle until you get called upon. It's vital you keep an eye on what's going on, on the pitch too. You have to be completely zoned in from the first kick-off and then when they tell you that you are coming on, you need to slot right into the team and add energy.

Last weekend was great, because although I was just on the pitch for ten minutes I was heavily involved, and we had to withstand a late charge.

Things seemed to go so well when CJ Stander picked from the back of a steady scrum and made yards with his break, but the ball got intercepted and it really tested our character.

We came up trumps again though. It is very satisfying to be able to come all the way back down the pitch after 80 minutes of rugby, protect our line after a number of phases and secure the win so we will definitely take a lot from that game.

CJ's blockdown attempt of Hidalgo-Clyne's drop-goal was another fantastic piece of play - it showed the hunger we have within the squad and something like that shows the respect we have for the jersey and how much we want to represent the province to the best of our ability.

That's not the first game where we have held off a team like that this season so it's a good test of our character. We have won six games now and there's no better way to go into Europe with that continuity and momentum, it builds confidence.

These games tend to take on a whole new meaning and they are usually really tight at the end, so to have a solid backbone and bags of courage to work with, it will stand us in good stead.

We kick off our campaign against Treviso at Thomond Park tomorrow and I can't stress enough how important the 16th man is going to be for us.

There's nothing like returning to those Saturday nights in Limerick in front of a packed crowd for a European game and we really hope to start with a bang.

In Europe the home games are always the main focus, you need to ensure your fortress remains intact, win your home games and then you can only think about what happens on the road after that. But if you are not winning at home you have no chance.

Last season we really let ourselves down when we lost to Clermont before Christmas. we always had to chase it after that. So that effectively knocked us out of the pool phase, all because of one slip-up.

Against Treviso, we are confident we can put in a performance, but we won't underestimate them for a second because we know they are capable of pulling off a shock.

They scored three tries away to Connacht last weekend so they are certainly in form at the moment.

In the Pro12 they've picked up losing bonus points on four occasions this season and they would love nothing else than to come here and spoil the party for us and put us on the back foot from the get go.

It's a real pity we lost Felix Jones a couple of weeks ago and we've all felt it as a squad, but it's good to have come in with his experience fresh from the World Cup.

He has been here for a week now and it fills you with confidence when you have a player like that playing beside you.

He is a really nice guy and has good English so it has made it easier for him to settle in. He has picked up on our calls and the Munster culture really quickly and it's vital everyone in the squad is on the same wavelength.

We need all of the depth we can get at this stage of the season ahead of a busy European block and we are all really looking forward to kick-off in Thomond Park tomorrow playing in front of our home support.

Our fans play such an important role for us and are crucial in those 50-50 exchanges when you need to find that mental edge.

It can often be the difference between winning and losing so we're looking forward to joining them on this European journey once again.

Irish Independent

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