Sunday 25 March 2018

The Insider: New voices and new caps provide a major lift

It's brilliant to share debut moments with your mates - the road can take any amount of twists and turns

Ross Molony believes Leinster can reach the heights again and can learn lessons from last year’s final defeat. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Molony believes Leinster can reach the heights again and can learn lessons from last year’s final defeat. Photo: Sportsfile newsdesk

There is a huge range of emotions as I look back on last season. I would never have believed this time last year that I would get so many opportunities to play. The season before that I made my senior debut against Zebre in the RDS as I came on for the last 20 minutes in place of Shane Jennings.

I added to that cap a few months later against the Dragons, and while of course you set goals for the new season and you wish to push on, you are trying to set realistic targets too. So in that regard it is hard to believe how the 2015-16 season went.

Leinster's Ross Molony. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Ross Molony. Photo: Sportsfile

It is incredibly humbling to wear the jersey I have been supporting for as long as I can remember.

One of my fondest memories as a supporter is sitting in Murrayfield with my dad watching Leinster beat Leicester 19-16 to win their first European trophy. Flash forward how ever many years, it's amazing to think the next time I was there was for the captain's run before the Guinness Pro12 final last season.

Obviously there is huge disappointment from the final last year. Personally however, it was a huge honour to have started that game and the experience will stand to me.

As a team, I believe that we can reach those heights again and I think the lessons learned from the final will stand to us.

Graham Henry was one of the new voices the Leinster players heard during pre-season. Photo: Sportsfile
Graham Henry was one of the new voices the Leinster players heard during pre-season. Photo: Sportsfile

After our short but sweet break it was nice to return for a fresh season. Three physically tough pre-season games (Ulster, Gloucester and Bath) had us in a great place for last week against Treviso. Thanks to all the supporters that showed up in Navan, Tallaght and Donnybrook. It was good to get out and about and I think it's something the players would like to do again, if the schedule allowed.

New surroundings for the pre-season games and new voices too. Graham Henry was with us for a few weeks sharing his years of rugby knowledge amongst our players and staff. Our new head of athletic performance Charlie Higgins is doing great stuff with us in the gym too. Developing physically is still a big focus for me for this season so Charlie's input allied to the already great work of Tom Turner, Diarmaid Brennan and the rest of the team is great.

I was delighted to get selected to play Treviso last Friday night. I had certainly missed competitive games over the break and there's no better feeling than running out to an electric RDS crowd. It was brilliant for us to kick the season off with a win at home. The first home game opener for us in nine years. That sets us up well.

I was thrilled for the three lads to receive their first caps, Jamison Gibson-Park, Andrew Porter and Rory O'Loughlin. Especially Rory who I've played with for years now, from senior cup in St Michaels, through underage with Leinster and Ireland to the Treviso game last week.

Rory, myself and a few others hit the road on Saturday after the game to the Cliffs of Moher. A fair few chats looking back over the years and the road that brought us to this point. He has had injuries too so I was delighted for him.

I watched another good friend from school last weekend too. Analysing the latest Glasgow game for this week, I saw Cian Kelleher lining up at full-back for Connacht in the Sportsground. It's clear we have some serious opposition this weekend in Scotstoun.

With Glasgow recently changing to a 3G surface, Saturday has all the potential to be a very fast game. With that in mind, training this week took place in Donnybrook on the artificial pitch. Preparing for the fast pace of 3G and getting a feel for the grip at scrum time.

We also saw the addition of Stuart Lancaster earlier in the week to the coaching staff. It is hugely exciting to have a man with his experience join the club.

Already we are learning things as a team and as individuals from him after two sessions earlier in the week. This puts us in a great place going into Glasgow with fresh ideas coming from a different rugby perspective.

All in all a busy week at Leinster but hopefully we can continue our winning ways in the Championship tomorrow in Scotstoun.

Irish Independent

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