Thursday 21 November 2019

Ross Molony: 'It has been brilliant to catch up with the boys back from Japan'

 

Johnny Sexton returned to Leinster training this week. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Johnny Sexton returned to Leinster training this week. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Ross Molony

Having started the season so well with five wins on the bounce, we couldn't have put ourselves in a better position as we welcomed quite a few familiar faces back to UCD this week.

That was always the plan of course but the plan is one thing, actually delivering it is something else and we have been severely tested over the first five rounds of the PRO14.

But overall, looking back, we have to be content with where we are at and, as I said, the lads are coming back into UCD with a good vibe about the place.

Some narrow wins away from home and some comprehensive wins in the RDS allowed us to showcase what we've worked on all pre-season.

It is always pleasing to see some of that coming together but also seeing lads that have put their hands up for selection, be that in training, in the pre-season games or in the Celtic Cup with the Leinster 'A' team.

Delighted

Everyone was delighted for Harry (Byrne), Mikey (Milne), Rowan (Osborne) and of course Jack (Aungier) last week against Dragons. Four lads that have come through very different paths through the schools system, the clubs system and of course through the AIL. It is great to see that hard work and effort rewarded with senior debuts.

As well as the new caps during the Rugby World Cup period, which is always an exciting time for the club given the chances that will inevitably come up for lads to get game time, there was a healthy mix of players within the squad over the past number of weeks and we saw a number of young lads stepping up to the mark.

Garry Ringrose getting running repairs. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Garry Ringrose getting running repairs. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The likes of Rónan Kelleher, Harry and Mikey getting first caps and also a few scores while Ryan Baird and Jack also contributed to leave us top of our conference after the fifth round.

It was what we wanted for the lads coming back in. To come back in to a club and an environment that was in the best place possible to challenge over the coming season. Now it's on to the next block of games.

And really that's the real tester for us. These are the games that will define our season: inter-pros, European nights in the RDS, Aviva Stadium in December, massive games in France, in England and Italy.

We will look back on these games at the end of the year, as we always do, and hopefully it will have paved the way to finals rugby once again and a shot at defending our PRO14 title and, who knows, maybe even putting five stars on the jersey. Two achievements that we would love to do.

With 11 games in a row, the importance of our squad depth will come into account more than ever. Luckily with the success of the 'A' team in the Celtic Cup we have depth in all positions with players who are hungry to win games for this club.

We understand the motivation and commitment needed for this block of games as there will be rotation throughout the team. So the buy-in of the non-23 picked each week will be crucial to our success this season as it always has been.

Over the last few years we have consistently been selecting more than 50 players each year. That is a huge amount of players but it is needed to challenge consistently on two fronts and it is a lot of players to keep happy each week. The reality is that you can't. The maths don't add up!

That is why I say that the buy-in of the players not in the 23 is so important. We can't have players bringing down the energy levels for those selected. We will all have to carry that burden at various points over a season but we all know that the common goal is a Leinster performance tonight.

We face another massive challenge tonight in the Sportsground. Connacht have built momentum this season with four wins in a row. Their record in Galway has been pretty decent too since we beat them down there last year, having only lost one game since to Munster back in January.

It has always been a difficult place to travel to and I'm sure tonight will be no different. Similar to the RDS in many ways it isn't a traditional rugby stadium but that lends itself to a great atmosphere. Even running on to the pitch and running under the stand, over the greyhound track, the fans feel like they are right on top of you.

Hopefully with the weather forecast showing positive signs, both teams will be able to play good rugby. It will no doubt be a cracker and hopefully after a tough 80 minutes, it will be an enjoyable bus ride home from Galway with an inter-pro win. And it's always nice to take a win off some of my Mayo relatives too for good measure!

As I mentioned all of the Irish lads joined back up with us this week so the energy in UCD has been great.

Challenge

We had big numbers on the back pitch in Donnybrook on Monday afternoon so logistically I am sure it was a challenge for the coaches but it is one that they are well used to. Although, nobody is used to that level of rainfall. Thankfully the great facilities and the 3G pitch in Energia Park was up to the task and there was remarkably no surface water.

While some Irish lads popped the head in last week, for the others Monday was the first session back so the coaches were excited about running them around a good bit!

It has been a brilliant week catching up with those boys who a lot of us wouldn't have seen since before summer. Despite the disappointment the lads are back with hugely positive attitudes and ready to drive Leinster towards more great days.

Irish Independent

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