Wednesday 29 January 2020

Finding our silver lining won't be easy

Chance to take a break this weekend is welcome - but we'd swap it in a heartbeat to play in Europe

Last September Kevin McLaughlin, centre, led Leinster out at Edinburgh, who the face at the RDS next week. Since then McLaughlin and team-mate Darragh Fanning have retired, showing just how quickly things can change in the game (SPORTSFILE)

Isa Nacewa

Every cloud has a silver lining. Or so the saying goes and this weekend is about finding that silver lining.

The question is: is there a silver lining to not being involved in Europe?

Well, whether we like it or not we have to find one as that's the position we are in. It won't be easy though sitting back and watching those knockout games in Europe.

Yes, our group was tough but did we believe that we could come out of it? Absolutely. And we have to use this week and the weeks to come when we are looking from the outside in as real ammunition and motivation for our campaign in Europe next season. But that is then. This is now.

So - the silver lining?

Maybe the fact we get a week off after one of the most physical inter-pros of the season? It may have been a while but it never ceases to amaze me how the body feels after playing Munster. Everyone invests all that they have into the game. No quarter asked or given and in a game when both defences were pretty solid, the hits take their toll.

I actually remember last season watching the game at home in Auckland.

Not many games get shown but this really is one of the stand-out rivalries in world rugby and you only appreciate that fully when you are removed and you see it broadcast like that.

It was difficult to watch. Nobody wants to go in at half-time with that sort of a mountain to climb but what I liked about our approach this season was that it wasn't used as a particular learning curve. Because how can you? It's a new team, new players, new coaches, new ideas. You can certainly learn how to maybe manage a game better and you can use examples but really what we focused on was making sure that we gave our supporters something to get behind in that first half and I think at key moments we did that.

What disappointed us was that we didn't continue that in the second half when Munster, to their credit, came out fighting.

But it was a great game to play in and to play in front of over 43,000 was special. Thank you for doing your bit to make it that special.

The reaction at the end to that turnover forced by Benny Te'o and the final whistle going said it all. We all knew, both players and supporters, what this win meant and it was brilliant to be a part of it.

So this down week couldn't have come at a better time and that has to be the silver lining. Looking back on the past three weeks, first Glasgow, followed by Connacht and then Munster. Three huge battles against three teams in the mix for the end-of-season Play-offs. What a great time it is to freshen up the body and take a quick mental break from preparing for games.

But like all other weeks of the season, we have to narrow our focus to Edinburgh at the RDS in a week's time. It seems a lifetime ago that we played Edinburgh in the first round of the Guinness Pro12 back in September last year. Right around the time Ireland were preparing for the first game of the Rugby World Cup.

Even thinking back to that game and the line-up, Kevin McLaughlin, our club captain at the time, has now retired and even Darragh Fanning, who also started that game, has retired to focus on other interests away from the pitch. Kevin is now well settled in a new role with KitMan Labs, while Darragh has just opened up his own restaurant, Zambrero. But it just shows how quickly things can change.

Edinburgh are coming to the RDS with everything to play for so we have to be on absolute point as the number of games left this season tick away very quickly.

But I think we are in a really good place. It's great to have all the Irish players back in the fray as it boosts all competitive levels and makes training that much more intense.

Everyone is gunning for a spot in the match-day 23 so it is up to everyone to push as hard as they can to make the decision of the coaches more difficult. Personally, I am just looking forward to getting back to the RDS. Fingers crossed the sun comes out and all the fans are there to cheer us on. Bring on Edinburgh!

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