Wednesday 23 October 2019

Player's Diary: These are two massive weeks that can set us up for the season

Ross Molony. Picture: Sportsfile
Ross Molony. Picture: Sportsfile
Cian Healy goes through his kicking routine. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Reaching new heights: Josh van der Flier reaches for a ball in a lineout. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ross Molony

It's as big a week as we've had all season and before we even start you are conscious that you are already a bit behind when it comes to the prep work ahead of a massive weekend for the club.

Saturday in the Aviva to Friday in the RDS. With the six-day turnaround it was important we moved on quickly from Munster and once again the coaches were not found wanting in helping us as a squad get the most out of those six days.

In order to do that, the coaches sent through a video review on Sunday evening, which would not be the norm.

We were expected to have this watched and studied so we could show up Monday morning ahead of the game, meaning we could quickly get into the threats and opportunities Wasps will bring to the RDS tonight.

It might be a small bit of detail but all these little things add up on a week as big as this, in particular a shorter week.

It also shows how hard the analysts are working behind the scenes, often weeks ahead, to ensure we can be as best prepared as possible to train and perform to the best of our abilities.

Overall we were happy with our performance against Munster. In a game that always has that bit more of an edge, we were delighted to come out on top. Getting the better of a few familiar faces is always nice.

However, there is plenty for us to work on having looked at the defensive review and possession stats after the game.

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With Wasps' attacking threats, these are things we will need to be conscious of in the opening game of Europe this year.

Wasps are strong again even though they will obviously be missing former Leinster player Jimmy Gopperth who is recovering from a knee injury. Everyone here has a lot of time for Jimmy and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Lying in third place in the Premiership, Wasps have started the season on the front foot but they had a bit of a stumble last weekend losing at home. No doubt they will be looking for a reaction to that defeat to Gloucester, were they produced a particular poor-first half showing.

They are a team that we have become quite familiar with having faced them a number of times in this tournament over the years.

As with all teams there has been change but we would be familiar still with some of their big names.

Nathan Hughes and Ashley Johnson up front are massive ball carriers for them and some of the wheels in the back line like Christian Wade, Elliot Daly and Willie le Roux can cause serious damage.

And that is the challenge this week. How do we negate their impact? How do we make sure that they don't get quality ball out to those players out back. If they do they can be handful for any team in Europe.

The first block of games have certainly flown by and after two testing inter-pros and a promising start to the Guinness PRO14, European matches have suddenly crept up on us. Having a game at home in the first round of the pool stages is a big plus but only if you make it count, so it is crucial we kick off our European defence in the right manner.

I feel that it is important to set down a marker early in Pool 1 and send a message to all the teams in the competition.

We have started the season really well in the Guinness PRO14 and in the Celtic Cup and now it's time to do the same in the Heineken Champions Cup. There is no better feeling than a Monday morning when the weekend has gone well.

Speaking of the Celtic Cup, the Leinster 'A' side also continued winning ways in Newport last weekend. Leaving one more game to reach the final of the Celtic Cup. It's a big one too - Munster at home.

Both teams are unbeaten in the league so far making this evening's game an exciting semi-final. We'd love to see you in Energia Park this evening at 5pm!

I will be there playing for the 'A' side and while I am disappointed to not be up the road at the RDS, with the depth in the squad at the moment it is really important to get the most out of your game time.

I am really looking forward to a physical encounter and also playing alongside a great bunch of lads. We play rugby to win trophies and we are delighted to be two games away from the first trophy of the season.

That being said, Munster are unbeaten so far in the competition and have looked very potent over the five rounds. It's funny. When you saw the fixtures at the start of this I think everyone thought that it would come down to this one. All on the line. One game. A place in a final at stake.

Similar to last weekend there will be an extra bite in this game. Munster v Leinster in knockout rugby, what's not to be excited about?!

As a group these two massive weeks will set us up for the season ahead. We have spoken so often about the need for depth, about the need to have players ready and available to slot in at a moment's notice.

We used 55 players over the course of last season and you can be sure that a similar number will be needed this season. We have already used more than 40 players for the season in the Guinness PRO14 alone.

In order for us to succeed at the tail end of the season, these are the weeks that count. We all have to drive the standards every day and in every small bit of detail that we can. Like videos on a Sunday evening. Because every thing and every point matters.

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