Sunday 25 February 2018

All on the line - no better time to shine

We all know where we are at in Pool 5 - but until it's beyond us we'll keep going, starting on Sunday

Isa Nacdwa
Isa Nacdwa
Isa Nacewa speaks with Hayden Triggs
Luke McGrath

Isa Nacewa

It's been a funny old week at Leinster HQ. With the game against Glasgow postponed, the day off that was planned for the squad on Sunday was also postponed. An unfortunate consequence of Storm Desmond.

The day off turned into a morning of circuits. Thankfully, those of us that didn't travel to Glasgow were excused but while tough, I believe that the circuits were kept short and sharp. Forty minutes and the lads were done.

It was important for the lads to get that blow-out though and to try to replicate the exertion that would have been expelled over 80 minutes against Glasgow Warriors. Of course while the S&C team can do their best, there is no substitute for the real thing.

Some of our lads were coming back from injury and were keen to get minutes under their belts. For everyone it was the chance to put their best foot forward ahead of a trip to Toulon.

By Tuesday as our attention turned to Toulon, Glasgow and any perceived negatives were a distant memory and instead we actually saw the positives. In a block of 16 games in a row a free weekend meant a full deck for the coaches to choose from come Tuesday morning. Or as near to full as we could have leaving aside those already ruled out with longer-term injuries. Luke McGrath (below) and Hayden Triggs have been slower to recover than thought from their knee and ankle injuries so it's a pity that they won't be with us but like Ed Byrne, Noel Reid, Jack Conan, Mick Kearney and Sean O'Brien, they will be front of mind as we head to Toulon.

The 23 selected very much represent the wider squad and we are very much aware of that responsibility.

Storm Desmond affected matters in Glasgow and he left a mark in HQ as well with Rosemount - our traditional training pitch - not quite right so it meant some time in Donnybrook on the 4G pitch. I played there during the pre-season game against Moseley and it's a huge plus to have such a facility as our disposal. We trained there and while the wind and rain was still a factor, it was at least an excellent track and you are able to train in more or less pitch-perfect conditions.

The Leinster 'A' team will benefit from that excellent surface and setting tonight in the British & Irish Cup.

What better way to start the weekend than by heading down to support them in Donnybrook at 7.30. Hugh Hogan, their coach, and Peadar Timmins, their captain, have a good bunch of lads there and they have started their season well.

Two from two in the B&I Cup to date, it would be great if they got the weekend off to a positive start for the club.

As for us this week, training was good, sharp, intense. Exactly what you would expect the week of a huge Champions Cup game.

Our mindset I think is very simple. We have to win the game and we know what's on the line. We are not blind to our predicament but until the pool is beyond us we will fight for every point available and right now that starts with Toulon.

This will be my first time facing Toulon although obviously the rest of the lads have played them over the last few seasons with Leinster or, in Johnny's case, with Racing.

I suppose we can take some learnings from those games and those experiences but at the same time it is difficult to draw direct comparisons because every season is different. Squads change. Coaching teams change. The dynamic involved with each game changes.

But one thing we can be sure of is that the Stade Felix Mayol will provide a brilliant setting. The players who played in that quarter-final two seasons ago loved it. The noise was incredible and it never let up. I think I echo the views of many lads in the squad when I say that I can't wait.

Occasions like this and stadiums like the Felix Mayol are why I came back. We know the task that awaits us but we also know that there is a performance in us. There is nothing we'd rather do than do it over there on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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