Another big one ahead in season of moments
Player diary: Tadhg Furlong
It's been a while since I've been on these pages and thankfully I have great memories to reflect on as I look back on the Six Nations. The Grand Slam was always there for us and deep down we believed that we could do it. But I think what we managed really well was staying focused on the moment, and that is something that Joe Schmidt talks about a lot. The next moment. The moment in front of you.
And for us those moments, in a broader sense, were the matches at the end of the week. We had five massive moments to build towards and of course all the little moments that make up your week. These had to be executed to perfection or as close to that as possible. I think we managed that really well. We knew the quality of opposition and the difficulty of going to France first up or finishing in England at Twickenham. Two fortresses. But we stayed very much in the moment and I think there was a huge desire within the group the closer we got to that very final moment in Twickenham to leave no stone unturned.
It wasn't a campaign without its hiccups, and obviously I had some injury issues, but what we have in Ireland - and in Leinster - is a squad ethos. This season 53 players have been used by Leo Cullen to get us to where we are now and you need that depth. You need players that can step up and we had that with Ireland.
Twickenham was brilliant. Simple as. To be able to walk around after the game and soak it all up and then to see the faces in the crowd, it was something that I will never forget. My mam and dad, my girlfriend, they are the ones that know most what it takes to get here.
For some lads they were straight back in to Leinster to focus on Ospreys but other lads were given some time off. I was given a few days off so, I was in on Tuesday for a bit where the plan for Saracens was presented and then we were let off.
I think that was really smart. We were all heading away to relax and unwind but the chance to reconnect, albeit for only a few hours, and to plant that seed of what was around the corner worked really well I feel. You weren't overloaded with information, which can be a danger when there is that eagerness when lads come back…it was almost like a teaser of what was to come and it certainly helped whet the appetite. Some lads went away. I stayed at home.
It's not that I don't like a holiday, I do, but when you have lived out of a suitcase for eight weeks the last thing you want is to start packing again so when I had my Ireland duties complete and I had my brief taste of what was to come against Saracens in my head, home to Wexford I went.
It was great. A few days at home in the company of family and friends. Perfect. And no better preparation for the visit of the two-time European champions.
I have to say that I have never experienced an atmosphere like it for a Leinster game in the Aviva and I would put it right up there with the great days with Ireland too. There was one moment in the second half when Garry (Ringrose) kicked a ball in behind and it bounced out perfectly just metres from their line and the place went mad. Like the lid had been lifted. It still stands out in my head clear as day. It would be great for something similar tomorrow; big moments delivered by the players and the support reacting in kind.
It's a different test to Saracens obviously and even more so because there is a familiarity and a bit of a rivalry building. They did a number on us last season in the RDS and beat a very good Munster team in the final. And they are capable of doing that again, they are that good.
But last year was a season of firsts and for a lot of us the semi-final against Clermont or the PRO12 semi against the Scarlets was the first time we had experienced knock out rugby or certainly semi-final rugby. The hope is that we have taken valuable lessons from those games that can sustain us tomorrow. We feel that we have had a good week of training and now it's about focusing on the next moment - and no bigger moment than at 3.30pm on Saturday in the Aviva.