Thursday 21 February 2019

Fergus McFadden: The next few weeks will define our year

Fergus McFadden in action alongside Gordon D'Arcy during training at UCD this week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Fergus McFadden in action alongside Gordon D'Arcy during training at UCD this week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Fergus McFadden

It is hard to believe that we are in the month of March already and the clock doesn't slow down at this time of the year either with the games coming thick and fast before the Pro12 play-offs and of course a huge home quarter-final in the Aviva Stadium in the Champions Cup.

Looking back over the last three weekends, it has been frustrating for the group as we have let points slip away particularly in that home loss against the Dragons and last weekend the draw away to the Ospreys.

It puts even more emphasis on the importance of a win this weekend against the Scarlets to keep ourselves in the top four before the international players after the Six Nations.

Last weekend was not the result we were looking for but Swansea is never the easiest place for us to go seeing as we have not won there since 2009.

In saying that a draw was better for Leinster than the Ospreys as it keeps daylight between us in the top four. Still though, two points was not our intention going over there but we'll take it. It is a very tough place to go and play and they will take points off other teams before the season is out and first up for them is Munster this weekend. Top of the table against the team scrambling to get into that top four. It promises to be an intriguing game.

Our game largely went unnoticed in many ways as the Irish game in the Aviva was the game everyone was talking about in Ireland. It did not disappoint.

With Ireland chasing a record-equalling 10-game winning streak and of course keeping the nation's hopes of a potential Grand Slam on track, there was a lot of pressure but I thought that it was a great performance. And it was a great performance from the first act.

From the kick-off Ireland looked more up for the game and dominated England at the breakdown and in the air. The defence from the entire group was immense and to be fair the physicality from both teams was huge.

I thought one try would prove to be the difference for either side and thankfully it came for Ireland in the second half off a pin-point kick from Conor Murray that was collected by Robbie Henshaw for his first try for Ireland.

What about Robbie? He's had some start in that green jersey and to be fair to him he is replicating his Connacht form so we shouldn't be surprised.

Robbie had an incredible game again and has been Ireland's best player in the first three games. His tackling stats of 44 in three games sums up the shifts he has been putting in. Fair play to him as he is a really nice lad.

The most impressive thing about the win was how the team coped without Jamie Heaslip and the loss of Sean O'Brien early in the game.

For Jamie, I thought that Jordi Murphy had a stormer at eight and Tommy O'Donnell got through a lot of work when he came on for Seanie. It shows how strong a squad that is being built six months away from a World Cup!

Personally I have had a nice run of games now after my set back with injury for the Irish Wolfhounds against the Saxons in the build up to the Six Nations. So this week is a big opportunity for me personally but also for the group to put in a better performance and to make sure we get a win away to the Scarlets. They are knocking on the door, trying to get into that top six for Champions Cup qualification next year and they're unbeaten at home this season in the Pro12. They will be just as anxious as us to get the four points. Leaving this season's impressive record aside, it is never an easy place to go anyway but hopefully we will benefit with the return of some of the Irish lads who played as substitutes against England.

Back to the clock though. It's not long until we will be preparing for Bath in the Aviva so it's important the momentum starts to build towards that with better performances and hopefully wins. There is a lot at stake this Saturday and I'm looking forward to righting a few wrongs from the last few weeks.

Irish Independent

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