Saturday 7 December 2019

Finally, I can see light at the end of tunnel

Player Diary: Fergus McFadden

Fergus McFadden praises Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster for bringing in young talent to the team. Photo: Sportsfile
Fergus McFadden praises Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster for bringing in young talent to the team. Photo: Sportsfile
Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Sportsfile

The season has flown by for club and country. It's mad to think the first month of 2017 is finishing when it doesn't feel like long ago we were beginning a new season. At the start of the campaign, we would have been satisfied with where we stand tin both the Champions Cup and the Guinness Pro12.

You want to be in the best position possible to challenge for silverware.

In the Pro12 we are third going into a key block of matches during the Six Nations period. There are four games in this period where Leinster will be missing 15 front-line players.

It's the highest number from any team in the league which will prove testing for the squad to continue our momentum as we face Treviso (away), Edinburgh (home), Dragons (away) and Scarlets (home).

We've built up a brilliant home record in the RDS over the last few seasons and it's important we continue in that vein even with the lads away and it's important that we have that home support to drive us on as always.

Looking at the four games ahead of us, in the past I've always felt this is the most important block to pick up as many points as possible and always has a huge bearing on where teams finish in the fight for play-off spots.

We can't allow a gap to build between us and Ospreys and Munster above and the players know that.

Leo Cullen (below) and Stuart Lancaster have worked so much young talent into the team already so hopefully we will see that experience come to fruition when guys get opportunities in the next six weeks.

It was a bittersweet end to the Champions Cup group stages for us. Again at the start of the year we would have taken top spot in such a tough group but a top-two ranking spot to secure a potential home semi-final was the one that got away when we drew with Castres two weeks ago.

Castres are a proud club and we knew it was never going to be easy going there, but after starting so strongly over there it was disappointing not to get the win.

In saying that we showed great resolve and character throughout the team to hang in there at the end with 14 men to get a draw and a crucial two points.

Now we find ourselves in knockout rugby starting in the Aviva Stadium against a quality Wasps side. It really is a mouth- watering game.

And all of the quarter-finalists could go on to win the competition on their day.

For me at the moment I can very much see the light at the end of the tunnel as I took part in my first few pitch sessions with the team after being passed fit from my long-term quad injury I sustained back in October. I've been out for around 16 weeks so it's been a long and lonely road at times.

I'm really chomping at the bit to try get back in the frame now, with the whole squad contributing so strongly to the team so far this year. The competition within the squad is the best I've seen in a long time so hopefully that will bring great the best out of the group.

As an injured player your days are sometimes tougher than the players who are fit.

That sounds strange but the idea would be to keep guys who are fit as fresh as possible and playing the games, so during the week they might have two tough days' training at the start of the week leading into the game.

Whereas injured guys are in first thing for treatment into training into rehab into training. The whole process is painful in many ways but it gives you an opportunity to strengthen parts of your game or skills before you return to play.

Speaking of a return to play, seeing Ed Byrne get back from a 18-month lay-off from injury was brilliant recently. He is a top lad with huge potential so hopefully he gets a run now at a time where opportunities should present themselves.

There is no game until February 12 at this stage so we will be put through our paces for a few days next week to prime us for our next fixture against Treviso in Italy. Hopefully I'll be back in the mix!

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