Sunday 26 January 2020

Player diary - Fergus McFadden: I'd back us if we got to play 'pool of death' again

After Euro exit, this season could have petered out but we now find ourselves right back in trophy hunt

Fergus McFadden:
Fergus McFadden: "Leinster’s season has been a mixed bag that’s for sure" Photo: Sportsfile
Homegrown talent: Garry Ringrose Photo: Sportsfile
Fergus McFadden combines with Ben Te’o to tackle Ian Keatley during their game against Munster earlier this month Photo: Sportsfile

Fergus McFadden

It's hard to believe there are only three games left in the official season for Leinster - the year has really flown by. It feels like yesterday when I was writing my first entry of the year during the World Cup. The season has been full of ups and downs on a personal and collective level.

From my own point of view I have been thankful for a relatively injury-free season to date and besides the three-week ban I received for stamping against Connacht I have played most games.

As a player that is all that you want. To play games. Staying fit is half the battle sometimes and is key in trying to build momentum for fitness and match form.

It was also nice to get back into the fold with Ireland after not making the initial Six Nations squad; having involvements in three of the five games was good considering. Hopefully with some luck and good form I can put myself in a position to get a place on the tour to South Africa in June.

Leinster's season has been a mixed bag that's for sure. None more so than in Europe and we are still dealing with the disappointment of not making the knockout stages when we struggled in the 'pool of death'. It wasn't easy watching on last weekend as the eight quarter-finalists went toe to toe.

It's funny looking back because the 'pool of death' it may have been but if we were to be drawn in a similar group again, I would back us. It just didn't happen for us this season and we have to be better.

In saying that, the season has improved on the domestic front in the Guinness Pro12 and the new coaching staff in place since the start of the year have done a brilliant job.

We have used close to 60 players in the league this season, which is phenomenal considering we are top of the table. It shows the confidence that Leo has in the group and some of the younger talent coming from the Academy.

In a World Cup year it's extremely hard to find a reliable and successful balance when you are missing half the squad but the management of that area from him has been top class, and it has also created a more competitive environment amongst the players in training.

Looking at some success stories like Garry Ringrose , Ross Molony, Josh van der Flier etc, it's been fantastic for the club to discove#r such home-grown talent that will hopefully be the backbone of this team now for years to come.

Thinking back to my own transformation from the Academy, there were many in the same boat like Johnny Sexton, Sean O'Brien, Dev Toner, Cian Healy. These are the guys you want to guide the club in the right direction, guys who have grown up and been part of Leinster from a young age.

So where to now? We find ourselves in control of our own destiny from a league perspective and I feel we are in a strong position after that encouraging win against Munster last week.

I didn't think it was our best performance of the season by any means but winning tight games of that magnitude when not playing your best at this stage of the season is key if you want to end up with silverware.

With three games remaining before the play-offs we are faced with challenging match-ups in Edinburgh, Ulster and Treviso. All three sides are playing finals in the last few matches essentially.

Edinburgh are fighting to get into the top six to secure Champions Cup rugby, Ulster are still in the hunt to make the play-off spots and Treviso are hoping to pip Zebre in making the Champions Cup Italian slot.

Edinburgh have been on a rich vein of form. They didn't lose too many players to international duty during the Six Nations block yet still had six involved against Ireland so they have quality but will have more consistency as a squad from a training and playing perspective and that shows in their results with wins in three of last four games.

I cannot wait to get back out there at home in the RDS and hopefully we can use the vital home support to our advantage.

So get down in blue to be the difference!

Irish Independent

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