Sunday 22 April 2018

Isa Nacewa: All systems go for 'Friday Night Lights' kick-off

Player Diary: After a great pre-season, everyone in the camp can't wait to get things underway against Treviso

Isa Nacewa is looking forward to the impact that Jamison Gibson-Park will have on Leinster
as he has been ‘buzzing’ at training since his arrival from the Hurricanes Picture: Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa is looking forward to the impact that Jamison Gibson-Park will have on Leinster as he has been ‘buzzing’ at training since his arrival from the Hurricanes Picture: Sportsfile

And we are back! Just like that it's upon us. Another season of Guinness Pro12 action is days away...or as you read this, hours away!

No more pre-season. No more warm-up games. No such thing as friendlies from now on. Because now every point counts, every tackles matters, every opportunity needs to be taken. This is why we work so hard in pre-season, this is why we push ourselves to exhaustion, this is why we spend hours upon hours trying to get better everyday.

We do it for 7.35pm this evening at the RDS, hoping it will turn into a lively Friday Night Lights kick-off.

The pre-season did take its toll though. Jack Conan picked up an ankle injury, Billy Dardis a shoulder. Ian Nagle last week against Bath. There is never a good time for an injury but having put in all the hard work of pre-season, just before the season opener is certainly bad timing. So your heart goes out to those lads but they'll bounce back. Strong characters.

That being said there has been a positive buzz around the Leinster base this week. As well as the few lads mentioned above, there are a few lingering knocks from last season like myself but everyone available want to be in the 23 for this week against Treviso.

That feeling of running out in front of our loyal fans at the RDS is etched in the front of everyone's minds. To think we haven't been back there since the semi-final against Ulster back in May. The RDS was special that day; as good as I've ever known a ground. So you can't wait to back out there.

There is a great feeling of youth mixed in with experience in the squad this year.

You have young guns such as Joey Carbery, Rory O'Loughlin, Andrew Porter and Dan Leavy who have been tearing up the first three warm up games. They will be pushing really hard for a spot in the starting fifteen over the course of the season.

Joey and Dan get the nod for this evening against Treviso and I think we are all keen to see how they go. Dan has some experience under his belt already but this is Joey's first start.

That being said anyone that saw him last season for Clontarf will know what a good player this fella is. Andrew and Rory make their first senior match day squad and are in line to make their debuts tonight.

All in all it's a hugely proud moment for these lads and their families, three of whom are still in the Academy. You would only wish them well.

It's also a great feeling having some new faces adding to the mix. Niall Morris, Ian Nagle and Jamison Gibson-Park bring fresh voices to the group. Of course, Jamison comes off the back of a Super Rugby Championship win with the Hurricanes. So he is buzzing about the place full of positive energy and we saw that in his first half last week against Bath.

A special mention must go to Robbie Henshaw. He is the man under the most attention of all those that have come in but to be fair he goes about his business in a superb manner and the input he has given since his arrival is invaluable. There have been other new voices too, just maybe not as high-profile as player arrivals, but just as influential to the team.

A huge positive boost to our group is our new Head of Athletic Performance Charlie Higgins. He has given everybody an added pep to their step. His new ideas and concepts have transformed us all over the past four weeks. Lads feel fresh as we near the start of the season and players have been hitting personal bests in the gym and in on-field scores too.

All in all it's been a great pre-season, but as always I won't be sad to see the back of it. You want to see that work coming together in the 80 minutes.

You want to feel that edge that you only get from running out with the blue jersey on your back representing the thousands in the stand.

It's about competition points at the end of the day and this is why we play rugby. I personally can't wait to get back out in front of the home supporters at the RDS but I have to be a bit more patient than most. Fingers crossed for some fine weather tonight.

Irish Independent

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