Friday 15 December 2017

Competition for places is so fierce I need to impress every chance I get

Darragh Fanning
Darragh Fanning

Darragh Fanning

This time of the year is difficult. Our break is followed by four back-to-back games and all the while a huge core of the squad are away. Last year when we picked up 19 from 20 points we saw how well it can be managed but we started off poorly in this year's block of four game.

I know some lads like the quick turnaround but for me, short weeks are always tougher coming off a poor performance. So it's hard to know where to begin when discussing the Dragons and then the Zebre game.

Ahead of the Dragons game we had trained well. We were also coming off the back of some great weekends in the Pro12 and in the Champions Cup. In some ways you'd love no break and just keep the momentum going, but you do need to recharge the batteries for the block of games ahead and ultimately the business end of the season.

It can be difficult then though coming off a three-week break and then players parachuting in and out of the Irish setup. You can never be really sure where you are at as a team. Being honest, we expect to win all our home games and the group knows that the Dragons performance wasn't good enough.

Take nothing away from the Dragons, they're a tough team with a very physical defence. They were up for the game and stopped us executing our game plan. From a personal point of view it was nice to get 80 minutes. The competition for the Leinster back three is fierce and I need to impress with every opportunity.

Overall, it was a tale of two weeks for me.

It's always tough to go from starting one week to holding the pads the next ahead of Zebre. It's the nature of being part of a squad though and I still try to bring a positive attitude to the training paddock. Even when you're not in the starting 23 you can have a massive impact on the weekend's game.

When not selected, you have to try hide your disappointment and help the team prepare as best as possible for the next fixture. We had five days to prepare for Zebre so the week flew in.

We picked a strong team but with all the squad disruption it was a disappointing first half display. The lads rallied and showed great character in the second half, particularly in the last 10 minutes as we chased the bonus point.

A lot has been written about how poor we were but I don't think Zebra are given enough credit.

They have a very organised defence and are hard to break down so it would have been easy to become frustrated but I thought we showed great character to stay focused right to the final whistle.

We had a strong bench and that's what made the difference in the end. After a long injury layoff it was great to see Cian Healy (opposite page) back playing. I also thought Sean Cronin was excellent for the 35 minutes he was on the pitch.

It was fitting that he barrelled over for the bonus point try. His try celebration showed just how much it meant to him, though I think the recent Super Bowl was still on his mind as he mixed an Alan Shearer hand in the air with a ball spike celebration!

It was also a special night for debutant Ross Molony. He was a last minute call-up to the bench and did a great job for the last 20 when he came on. He may only look 12 years old but he is a very talented player and has a bright future.

After Friday night games we were given two days off to recharge the batteries. It's nice to to step out of rugby on these weekends off.

On Saturday night I went to see the Coronas in the 3 Arena, it was great night, one of the best concerts I've been to recently. Despite the fact that three of them are Terenure College lads, they're up there as one of my favourite bands lately.For this Friday, we'll look to improve against Ospreys.

They are similar to ourselves and will be missing a number of their front-line players but will still field a very strong team.

The Liberty Stadium is up there with one of the best pitches you will play on in the Pro12. Hopefully we get some dry weather and it could make for a very good game and more importantly the performance we have been looking for over the past few weeks.

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