Player Diary: Key lessons learned from time in the bin
Last few weeks haven't been easy but it's a timely reminder of all our responsibilities on the pitch
I can safely say that life so far in the 'sin bin' has not been very enjoyable after getting cited three weeks ago against Connacht in the Guinness Pro12.
The whole experience is probably something I will learn from on a personal level but I hope I never have to go through the process again for the rest of my career. Lesson definitely learned.
The sanction I was initially given was five weeks for reckless use of the boot on an opponent. This was reduced to three weeks because of my clean record to date seeing as I have only received two yellow cards in my entire career.
While saying that I never want to go through it again, it was a valuable insight and a reminder of your responsibilities on the field.
As I have been reminded at the proceedings, every player has a "duty of care" on the field towards the opposition. The rule is there so players remain aware of others they may be in direct contact with on the field.
In my instance it was my lack of awareness of Nathan White lying underneath me as I entered the gate of the ruck to try and win the space above the ball as my team-mate had been tackled in front of me. So when my boot connected with his head this was deemed to be reckless.
Thankfully, Nathan did not get injured from the incident but that is no defence. Going into the ruck area, as manic as it can seem sometimes, there must always be an awareness in place and a control at all times and that has been the learning for me.
The ban has been difficult for me mentally to be honest because when I have missed games previously it has generally been because of injury. As frustrating as injury can be at times it is a case of trying to retain your fitness and get back on the field, whereas when you are fully fit and feeling great but not allowed play at the weekend it becomes harder to get your head around.
Thankfully, I can play next week after this episode and I'm chomping at the bit to get back as I physically feel great.
These three weeks have certainly gone by slowly for me as I haven't had a game to look forward to after a week of tough training.
The momentum has been building nicely for us though since that win against Munster in Thomond Park over Christmas. We have put ourselves back in a strong position in the Pro12 and got back to the standard we expect of ourselves in Europe after a great win against Bath last week.
Leo went with some fresh legs last week and handed opportunities to some of the younger lads to get their first starts in Europe. With Garry Ringrose, Ross Molony, Peter Dooley and James Tracy all getting starts, it was a perfect opportunity to give the younger lads their first outings in Europe. Luke McGrath and Tadhg Furlong you feel have been around ages but it was great to see them get a first start in Europe as well.
They all played outstandingly well and it emphasises the confidence Leo has in younger talent coming through. He said it himself though that they more than deserved their shot and I think that showed in how they performed against a very powerful Bath side full of internationals.
The squad of players we now have has steadily built from the start of the season and the competition for places is better than ever. The team performance against Bath was one of the more polished ones so far this season. I thought we outplayed them in all areas and in hindsight it's just disappointing we didn't produce a similar performance against them months ago.
This week may be seen as a 'dead rubber' for the neutral but from our perspective it certainly is not. Wasps came over to the RDS earlier this season and embarrassed us in front of our home fans. This will be in the forefront of our minds going into this fixture and with the game a 'must-win' for Wasps it makes for a great contest. I however will have to watch the lads go out again from the comfort of my couch to cheer them on but I'm really excited to see us hopefully put in a big performance over in London!