Friday 21 September 2018

Our Grand Slam boys will bring a huge buzz to the squad for run-in

Bundee Aki celebrating with Jordi Murphy, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Dan Leavy and Conor Murray after their Six Nations victory Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Bundee Aki celebrating with Jordi Murphy, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Dan Leavy and Conor Murray after their Six Nations victory Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Tiernan O'Halloran

I ended up watching the Ireland match at home last weekend. It was nice to be able to relax and see such an unbelievable performance like that. It was cool to see the lads do it against England too, and I was delighted for Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion as well.

The whole country was at a standstill for a couple of hours on St Patrick's Day watching that game. I remember the excitement from 2009 when Ireland won the Grand Slam. And it was such a special occasion again this time around to have it on St Patrick's Day.

The guys were so comfortable and assured throughout the game and it just shows a massive confidence in Irish rugby at the moment. Naturally that is only going to flow down to the provinces.

Leinster were very strongly represented. But even still, whether you have two or three guys up there, once those guys come back down there is a huge confidence added. It's a breath of fresh air.

Even the guys that weren't involved in the last game, like Quinn Roux, he played two games as well. Everyone is massively proud of what those guys achieved. It will definitely help us coming back into training. It's a huge boost and can only be positive for all of Irish rugby.

We all held our breath for a couple of minutes there when Bundee was down for a good while on the pitch on Saturday. But then it was great to see him walk off and he seems fine.

Calibre

When you know you have a big game in two weeks' time against Gloucester in the Sportsground, the worst thing you can imagine is losing an international player of his calibre as well.

He's such a massive player and leader for us. It's great to hear he is good to go. He has taken this week off but it will be huge to have him back in. Even just for training next week, it will be such a boost for everyone.

The enthusiasm and energy he brings to the place is massive for us. And it's the same for Kieran, he is so experienced at scrum-half. It's such a boost for us.

Thankfully the guys got through Twickenham alright and we have a huge game this weekend against Edinburgh. Obviously, there is the quarter-final the week after and we will focus on that when it comes around.

South Africa was hugely beneficial to the squad. At the start when it was announced that the South African teams were joining a few eyebrows were raised.

It was a step into the unknown. We didn't really know what to expect. We were going down there knowing we would have had a lot of challenges. We had to fly straight from Italy because we played Benetton Rugby beforehand.

That was a challenge in itself but we got sorted with business class flights. That was great for recovery because you are just after a game against the Italians and you are flying a long journey. There is a stop-over in Dubai and then on to South Africa.

Then you have the factor of 30 degree heat and you are a couple of thousand feet above sea level. It was a big shock to us. In the first day or two when we got there a lot of our focus was on recovery and just making sure we would be good to go.

At the same time our first two training sessions over there were pretty high intensity to get used to the altitude and what your lungs are going to feel like. It is a big shock.

There was only a handful of guys who had played at altitude before. The other thing with that is the kicking. When you kick the ball at altitude it can go 15-plus metres further. That has to be a factor as well.

Slotted

From a goal-kicking point of view there was a difference as well. Jack Carty slotted one over easily from 50 metres and the ball was travelling well. That was in our minds going into the game.

Mentally it's a tough one, you are in South Africa another country with hot weather. It's easy enough that someone might slip into holiday mode. But you have to remember you have a game at the weekend as well.

We put a massive focus on Cheetahs, a win would be a huge turnaround for us. The performance showed what we can do. We put everything into the game. And to lose it due to a penalty in the last minute was a tough one.

In general, the whole experience and tour, we were away for nearly 12 days with Italy as well, helps guys build relationships that bit more. It was all positive and we all really enjoyed it - except for the result.

A good few of us were at home over the weekend and got to watch the Edinburgh game. They are going from strength to strength. Even with their internationals away they are still churning out results. They are third in their conference and have a Challenge Cup quarter-final coming up as well.

It's a game they will be targeting. But every game we play at home we take very seriously. We really want to get a result to build into the Gloucester week.

Irish Independent

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