Player Diary: A time of change on and off the pitch
Retirements and appointments aplenty and while we can't wait to work with Girv, we will miss our version of Butch Harmon
It's been a season of highs and lows so far in Leinster HQ. After the lows of the opening match against Edinburgh in Meggetland, the lads have bounced back brilliantly with two great wins in the RDS.
We also had the very sad news of Kevin McLaughlin's retirement which really shocked the whole squad. Kev is a massive personality in the Leinster environment and someone who keeps standards high the whole time. He is the definition of a true pro and even the day after his retirement was announced I came into the gym to find him in the middle of a Wattbike and rower session.
I laughed with Aaron Dundon saying you think he would be off on a beach relaxing with a few cocktails, but that's Kev. He is even going to stay around the club for the next few months to help out where he can and especially with the younger lads. With so many lads at the World Cup, the squad will benefit massively from his experience.
He is someone I have learned a lot from and one of the guys who was very good at integrating me into the squad when I first came in. I wish him and his wife Kate the best for their future but I know whatever he does he will be a success at it.
Last week there was some good news with the return of Marty Moore and Rhys Ruddock. Two guys who would surely be involved in the Irish World Cup squad only for injuries. But from a Leinster point of view it's great to have two great players back. Both have had a rough time over the past few months so it was good to see them back playing. Anyone in the squad will tell you it's always great to see guys return after long-term injuries. The injured players in Leinster work harder than anyone else with our physios and rehab staff.
Rehabilitation training after an injury can be some of the most frustrating stuff you can do as a professional athlete. But it's the little boring exercises which can have the biggest impact.
Monday was also another day of big news for Leinster as Girvan Dempsey was appointed full-time backs coach. It's great for the club to have one of our own appointed, someone who has played for the club and knows what it means to pull on the Leinster jersey. I have enjoyed working with Girv over the past few months and as a back he has really given us a licence to play which we are all enjoying.
Richie Murphy will be moving to a full-time role with Ireland but will still have some involvement with our kickers which is great. He is rugby's answer to Butch Harmon minus the scary eyes ... it's been a pleasure learning from him over the past two years even though I don't think I have kicked a ball once for Leinster!
Last week was another great win for the squad and one we had targeted after losing twice to Dragons last year. It's always great to get a bonus-point win in front of our own fans. Some of the lads were saying straight after how we left a few out there so still plenty to work on moving forward. It was great to see Marshy get man of the match. He really attacked the line and it looks like we are improving week on week which is a very positive sign.
There is no Pro12 this week which is unfortunate as after a good win like Dragons you want to keep the momentum going but there was an 'A' game against Munster which gave the rest of the squad myself included a chance to put the hand up to try get back into the team.
It was a perfect evening for rugby and the artificial surface in Donnybrook plays its part too. Unfortunately for Billy Dardis, he had to go off early in the game but that meant I was into the action early. I've been doing well lately for St Mary's in the AIL so it was good to get more minutes under the belt. It was a good win and good to catch up with Jordan Coghlan too who is now with Munster.
This weekend will be our last free weekend for a while as we have 16 games in 16 weeks. But like most of the country I will spend Sunday afternoon glued to the TV for the Ireland-France game. I have been looking forward to it since the draw came out. Last week might not have been Ireland's best ever performance but they got the win and I would still be very confident for Sunday. Hopefully my next diary in three weeks will be a preview for Ireland's World Cup final. So come on you boys in green!!!