Wednesday 26 October 2016

We're all primed now and ready for action, so let the games begin

Duncan Casey

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30

Munster’s Tomas O’Leary in action during training in Bishopstown
Munster’s Tomas O’Leary in action during training in Bishopstown

On the eve of the first Pro12 game of the season I'm happy to say that I'm back, fit and raring to go. All I need now is a field, 14 team-mates, a ball and a team to play against.

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I've been on the verge of playing for the last few weeks but I was keen to complete my recovery as diligently as possible. I managed to get in all of my pre-season fitness work, lots of weights and strength and conditioning, so after a couple of sessions this week, I'm ready for action.

This week has been fairly hectic around the place. The last few days before the season starts are always the same: loads of small jobs to finish up, the minute details of the weekend having to be planned; and the day-to-day preparation that goes into it ahead of a big match.

All that put together meant for a pretty busy few days, but we're all ready to rock now; all the boxes have been ticked and the lads are excited about getting back to regular games.

Last weekend's win against London Irish means there was a good buzz around the place this week. It was a big improvement from the week before against Connacht: we used the ball a lot better in attack; it took us a while to get into the game once again, but when we did we handled possession well and ran in a few good tries on the back of that. It was good to see that structure to our game.


Defensively, we still have a bit to work on and we did a good bit of practice on that this week. We let in a couple of tries late on against London Irish: those are the things that you want to iron out before the league starts.

But overall it was good to get a win and get us up and running for the season. We had some very good individual performances, but the team effort was on the money too, which was most pleasing for us.

We were disappointed to see a few decisions didn't go our way in the scrum, but sometimes you don't get the rewards you deserve. We were content with how it went though; the boys were pretty happy that we were the dominant force there. Going forward we have to try and eliminate any uncertainty with regard to the referee's decision. You really have to show it when you are the dominant side.

After the game last weekend everyone was worried about Francis (Saili), but thankfully he's in good shape. He took a bad bang to the head when he got caught on the wrong side of the tackle.

Everyone watching was a little bit worried when they saw him down for so long, but it was really all precautionary. He was fully aware of what was going on even though he was a bit dazed.

It just goes to show how critical it is to have your head on the right side of someone these days. It happened to Keith Earls as well against Wales when he ran into George North's knee. That's two good warnings for young lads that are watching - your technique is crucial.

But as worrying as the whole scene was, there has been massive strides made in player welfare of late. It's great to see these injuries are been given the full attention of the full medical staff in every team, be it club or international.

From a player's point of view it gives you a lot of confidence going into a game that in the event of something untoward happening to you, at least you know that you'll be given every bit of care that you need. That's quite reassuring from my point of view anyway.

As always, we did a good bit of video work this week, and that is a huge part of the game nowadays. To have that bank of footage from games and training is massive for us. To have the ability to look at set-pieces and open play from a range of different angles is a massive help, it really gives you the chance to see the full picture.

Before every game we study our opponents, try and spot what they might habitually do in certain situations, so when you come up against them at the weekend, you are rarely surprised. Every team does that work now, so I'm sure the Munster dvds have been dissected in Italy all week too. The homework has to be done, but it pays off in the end.

The announcement of the Ireland World Cup squad was tinged with happiness and sadness from a Munster point of view, and I imagine both Dave (Kilcoyne) and Felix (Jones) are gutted about the selection.

It's probably no consolation that they were so close and are good enough to be there. You never like to see it happen to good friends of yours that you really enjoy seeing do well and putting on the Irish green shirt. It will be tough for them for sure, but they are both excellent professionals. They'll dive straight into helping Munster again, having them here is a big lift for us ahead of the first Pro12 game.

On the other hand we are delighted for the rest of the boys that were named, but particularly Donnacha Ryan and Keith Earls who have had so many injury woes.

Donnacha hasn't played that much rugby of late and to see him slot back into the Ireland squad is a real credit to him and the medical staff here. We wish all the lads the best in the next few weeks.

For the rest of us, all focus is on Treviso. I'm not sure if I'll be involved as I'm just back into full training a few days and there might be one or two cobwebs to blow away, but I'm ready if called upon.

We are expecting a huge test from Treviso here. I expect they have had a good amount of time together and all of their focus has been on this game. We got off to a slow start last season, so the aim is to get off to a winning start tomorrow night.

Irish Independent

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