Sport Rugby

Saturday 20 January 2018

'Johne Murphy was ejected from the quiz for cheating when he tried to use his phone'

Dave Kilcoyne

That's part one of the Italian job done with the win against Zebre, and, hopefully, we can finish our adventure with another victory against Treviso this evening.

It is a big test for us. They are coming into this game on the back of two defeats to Ospreys and Scarlets and will be anxious to get their first win and not lose two successive home games. They will be fighting hard to get that victory.

Last season we were stung by the loss out here. I wasn't involved in that game – I was away on international camp – but it was probably one of our most disappointing results of that campaign. That will be fresh in the minds of us all this evening, and we'll be keen to chalk up a win.

Zebre was my first start of the campaign and I found it a little tough to get into the swing of things. The first half didn't go how we had planned – it didn't go our way at all really. But once the second half started we upped our intensity and work rate. It was great to see the changes we made at the break begin to work. There really was a clear difference in the second 40 minutes.

Luciano Orquera got in for a good try for Zebre, but it was really frustrating for us to concede a score like that. We were caught off guard and we were annoyed with ourselves, but it won't be happening again.

For us to turn that game around and score four tries in the second half was really pleasing. Paddy Butler got a great score to start us off and once we got that try we felt we could work our way back into it.

To be top of the Pro12 standings after two games is great and, hopefully, we can take another win home with us and stay up there.

It has been a brilliant week so far. The facilities here are great. Up until now we were staying at Lake Garda, but we made the move down to Treviso in plenty of time for the game today. It was really beautiful up at the lake. Everything was perfect for us to get some vital work done in the training camp.

The town itself, the food, everything has been amazing. And with the pitch close by for us to work on, the trip couldn't have worked out any better. We have been really well looked after.

After the Zebre game we stayed in Parma for a night and got the bus up to Lake Garda from there, which wasn't too bad, just a two-hour spin.

After we arrived we spent Saturday and Sunday just getting the bodies right after the game. We took a stroll around the town and even went for a dip in the lake, which was nice.

TRIMMINGS

On Saturday night we all went out to dinner together – a real traditional Italian feast, with loads of pasta courses and all the trimmings. We were right to rely on Damien Varley to pick the restaurant. Once he saw there was veal and some good red wine up for grabs, he was happy.

But it hasn't been all sunbathing and sightseeing. For example, Monday we were flat out working on our game. We started the day with a pitch session in the morning, then we split up to do a few weights sessions.

The gym here isn't as big as we are used to in UL or CIT, so we had to take turns and break into four groups. We had another tough pitch session in the afternoon and then we had a team meeting, which was good.

In the evening we got the chance to switch off a little and had a quiz, which was organised by Simon Mannix. As a Kiwi, who has played and coached in France and England, there was always going to be plenty of sticky geography questions – and he didn't disappoint.

Unfortunately we had to dish out a little punishment for a mortal quizzing sin. Johne Murphy was ejected from the competition for cheating when he tried to use his phone.

He was subjected to a fairly rough in-house punishment that I better not mention so as not horrify anyone. Needless to say it took him a few days to complete his task. That's a lesson well learned for him.

Despite all the high jinks, the best thing from the week away here has been the chance to work with all the lads as a group.

Usually we would only meet together as a squad twice a week, with the Cork and Limerick-based lads doing their own thing after that.

But this week everything was done as one. We got plenty of video sessions in, but even the chance to have the craic with everyone was brilliant. From a bonding point of view, the trip has been top notch.

The only sour note was when my room-mate Ian Nagle got injured against Zebre and had to go home for treatment.

Himself and Tommy O'Donnell were gutted to pick up knocks that forced them home.

Injuries come with the job, but to get a setback so soon into the season after such a hard pre-season is tough on the boys.

While it was tough to see the boys going home, it meant I was one of the only lads to have their own hotel room. That can be good and bad, but at least it meant I didn't have to spend the week trying to tidy up after myself.

After tonight's game we stay in Treviso for the night, but the plan is to head home on Saturday morning. I think it's an early start, which is never the best, but it will be back to more familiar faces and weather for next week. Ah well!

Irish Independent

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