TALK can be cheap. It is so much easier to say than to do. But as the season really kicks into gear, with the start of the All-Ireland League, the inter-provincial Pro12 clashes and the Autumn Internationals looming, I have been heartened by some of the soundings emanating from key figures in Irish rugby.
Declan Kidney in his midweek conference provided the type of leadership essential at this point in time, given the disaster that was New Zealand, especially the embarrassing third Test.
While saying "my situation doesn't matter", he was still making it unequivocally clear that the buck stops with him. What players ask of coaches is clarity, honesty and assertiveness. In re-emphasising that he takes responsibility for everything that happens, his stand was timely and appropriate.
The IRFU have no desire to sack their head coach, but he and they are under immense pressure post-New Zealand.
Make no mistake, there are two nasty November Tests ahead against an Argentinian side that has impressed everybody thus far in its maiden Rugby Championship, and a Springbok unit every bit as mean and grizzly as the Pumas.
By virtue of his honesty, Kidney is putting his position on the line -- "I'll run the shop and it will be the way I want it to run".
His knockers may not like it, but that is the type of leadership required in what will become a crisis should the Autumn Series go belly-up.
Like Kidney, I do not believe that there is a growing disconnect between the public and the national team.
Without a successful national side, the knock-on effect will be financially crushing. And I implore those idiots who wear provincial colours to Ireland games -- please desist. If the four proud provinces are to stand shoulder to shoulder, then let it be through the wearing of the green.
Another bugbear is when the head coach announces the team he deems to be the best, factoring in form and opposition, and people question his motives and loyalties.
There was a time when Irish rugby selection was steeped in political manipulation and cronyism. Put five selectors and two sub-selectors in a room and the bottom line was 'cute hoorism' of the highest order.
Those of us of a different generation never thought we would see the day when one man would call the shots.
I couldn't care less whether the first XV comes from Montenotte, Moyross, the Falls Road, the Shankill, Foxrock, Finglas, Creggs, Clifden or wherever. All I ever want is the best players in the best form pulling on that Ireland shirt -- and for anyone to suggest that the man now charged with that responsibility, whose job is on the line, would want it any differently is beyond comprehension.
Kidney is not hiding from that responsibility, as his unambiguous self-assessment in midweek so clearly indicates. I may not always agree with his team selection, but the honesty and integrity of that selection is beyond reproach.
For the players, a dismal autumn may not have the same dire consequence as for the coach, but they too appreciate that they are selling both themselves and the game here short at the highest level.
What would make a successful autumn? Well, like the skipper, I go for three wins from three.
It's setting high standards but as O'Driscoll says: "We've got to nail something because lately we've just flattered to deceive. We need to win both of the big ones (South Africa and Argentina)."
The Fijian game in Limerick in between will be far from a doddle, but I feel it will look after itself, with those on the periphery keen to make their mark.
For me, the most pertinent comment of all was O'Driscoll's rallying call that "we need to re-focus and realise that Ireland is the ultimate".
The Welsh, despite lack of Heineken Cup success, have the winning formula right. They deliver at the highest level but have some difficulty when stepping down. We expect provincial success to translate into Test superiority as a matter of course, but it sure doesn't work like that.
There is a world of difference between provincial and international rugby, and though the Heineken Cup has helped narrow that gap, the skipper is right when he hints at taking the eye off international rugby on the back of European success.
Let there be no ambiguity here -- it's Ireland first and province second.
Sexton reiterates O'Driscoll's words, saying: "There has to be some type of, not backlash, but response".
Here, I would argue the toss and ask why not a backlash? Why not target three wins from three and go for it?
You can't disagree with O'Driscoll's assertion that there's only one thing greater than playing for your country and that's winning for your country.
IRFU treasurer and former Ireland skipper Tom Grace also said those words to me on the occasion of my first cap back in 1978. They are every bit as relevant now as they were back then, perhaps more so.
If Lansdowne Road is to become a fortress once again, then what better way than taking back-to-back Springbok and Puma scalps in six weeks' time? Then all these September words will have real meaning.
Friday night lights breathing new life into AIL
Let us give a small bit of credit where credit is due.
The Ulster Bank All-Ireland League kicked off last night, with matches at Thomond Park, Dooradoyle and Anglesea Road.
There was a time when local derbies between Shannon and Young Munster, Old Belvedere and Lansdowne or indeed an inter-city clash between Garryowen and Dolphin would have attracted punters in their thousands to the Limerick and Dublin venues.
Alas, the halcyon pre-professional days of the early to mid-90s are long gone. That said, the Friday night floodlit experiment is well worth pursuing.
Hats off to those clubs who have shown the initiative to give it a go. But quite what it's going to take to attract a new generation of fans to these games, I really don't know.
The quality of rugby sells itself, so perhaps in time the appeal of attending a floodlit venue after work on a Friday night will catch on. Selling Sunday rugby is a lot more difficult for many obvious reasons, but the Friday night experiment should whet the appetite ahead of Saturday's Pro12 fare.
Nobody is suggesting overnight miracles in the battle to get numbers through the turnstiles, but it's a small step in the right direction.
And to those die-hard provincial fans, I hugely recommend that you give the Friday night games a try. You will be mighty impressed with what you see.