RDS victory would show we are the real deal
It's been a superb week for Connacht Rugby on and off the field. Two key contract extensions coupled with back-to-back victories in the Champions Cup have created a real feelgood atmosphere in the squad.
We started the week off brilliantly in Italy and it was great to see the guys put Zebre to the sword with a 52-7 win at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Then on Tuesday, our CEO Willie Ruane and Pat Lam announced the news that Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane were extending their stay in Galway, which is a massive boost for the entire province and for everyone involved in the organisation and the game in the west.
But it was vital to lead into the Leinster game tomorrow afternoon with a victory, and young winger Stacey Ili played no small part in the win in Italy.
Stacey has only been here a short time. He is a good guy, with some natural talent, natural flair. That helps him a lot - he fits into the system well and he is popular with the boys.
I was happy to see him score three tries, you can't complain about that really.
It is the same with all of the boys. Every one of them puts a lot of work into different areas of their game during the week - some of it is noticeable but there are smaller parts of it that only we notice because it might be an area that we have worked on for a long time.
That is where the real rewards come in for me, from a skills coach point of view anyway.
In comparison to the postponed fixture where we trailed 22-10 at half-time in Parma last time out, we were a bit further down the track in our preparation in this game.
We were well aware that Zebre were a good side. They had showed that in excerpts previously and we knew they were a better team than the one that conceded 12 tries in the Ricoh Arena against Wasps. So it was good that the boys stepped up. All of that worked to prove that we are getting better as the season goes on.
When it comes to the basic skills of the game, sometimes it can just take a little while to get your timing back again and get back into the rhythm of things at the start of the season.
It's a tough one to lose three games in a row at the outset, but we went back and made sure that we were ticking off the little boxes.
The boys were over the celebration of last season and they were back into work mode straight away.
But we're not getting ahead of ourselves; there is always room for improvement. The boys have got good work ethic and they are sending in their skill plans every week. They are still working hard and they are not taking anything for granted.
We wanted to be top of our pool after two games in Europe. It was always there, it's just a matter of belief and putting those little details in. It was part of our overall plan.
The draw between Toulouse and Wasps last weekend changed the shape of things a little. And you don't know whether it's a positive or negative. One thing we have learned over our time here is that the results of others won't necessarily reflect on our results.
Just because they came out with a draw, it might be good for us in one sense that they banged it out like that, but it doesn't necessarily reflect the way either side will play against us. It is quite a fickle game.
It would mean a lot to me personally if we could finally get the victory at the RDS tomorrow evening. I remember when I first turned up, beating one of the inter-provincial rivals was a real goal.
That was the biggest thing you could do, just to get one win, and here we are going for five in a row. I would love to win up there, just as a reward for all the hard work that the boys are putting in. And to show that we are the real deal.
The fact that Leinster managed to secure a losing bonus point against Montpellier is a good indication of where Irish rugby is in general. They showed a lot of grit to get anything from that game, and we know this one will be a real ding-dong battle.
If we get our stuff right we will be fine. It's just when you don't get your own things correct, that's when you have to play a different game.
But if we have clarity in what we are doing, a bit of belief in how we do it, and stick to our guns, we should be fine.