Shane Jennings: No going back now - it is time to go, just not yet
Definitely one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make but there is relief now that it's out there
It wasn't an easy decision that's for sure. And even the decision to go public with it wasn't easy. I called into Matt and with me being up for media anyway this week ahead of the Zebre game, there was an opportunity to just get it out there.
To be honest, it's been on my mind for a while. Not just this week, this month or this season but for a few years. I bumped into a fella a few years back and I said that won't be me. Physically, he wasn't in a great place but even outside of that, he had nothing set up for retirement, no exit strategy if you like. Thankfully, I amn't that fella.
I am lucky too in that Leinster offered me a contract and I am grateful in that regard but I want to go out on my terms and, like I said, when the going is relatively good.
Touch wood, I am still able to get about. Of course the last few injuries make you question where the body is at and the hamstring injury this year, and even the length of time it took to get it right, makes you question. But, overall, I am in good shape. I'll be well able to get about and play a game of golf and even go for a jog or whatever.
I have been very fortunate too that I have been able to plan for this day. IRUPA, the players' representative body, played a huge part. The advice and the guidance that they provide is crucial and often understated.
IRUPA are working away behind the scenes for the good days but in particular for the bad days. A resource like that for players when they have to retire early due to injury for example is invaluable. They are also there after you retire. For me, they were brilliant throughout my career and came into their own once I had the decision made or at least a road map in my head.
I have also been upskilling and have a degree and now an MA under my belt so I feel that I am as equipped as I can be for the 'real world'. And that is what it will be like on June 1 or whenever it is that the reality dawns.
I have sought the advice of other former players, and Matt and Guy in here obviously, my wife Cliona and friends and family but ultimately I don't know how I will react that first day.
To be honest, I'm just looking forward to spending more time with Cliona, travelling for a bit maybe, not having to get up when I'm told, get on the bus when I'm told. Having a bit of independence will be nice. Will those feelings remain the same? Who knows. But right now, I'm very content and very much looking forward.
And before anyone forgets I am looking forward to seeing out the season with Leinster. I have been very fortunate to have won trophies here and as I see it we still have two massive opportunities ahead of us this season in the Pro12 and the Champions Cup. Now that the announcement is done, I can just focus on doing everything I can to get us over the line and that starts against Zebre. So... back to the match!
We haven't had a Monday like the one just gone in some time. Unfortunately, we let ourselves, and all our fans, down with a poor performance last Sunday and it was incredibly difficult to take. For such an important block of games it is frustrating to start off on such a note and at home too.
After a game such as the Newport game, it is difficult to move on and forget about it but thankfully we have a game tonight, which gives us an opportunity to make up for our below-par performance last week.
To add to the disappointment, we picked up a few injuries with Tom, Noel and Richardt picking up knocks, which has hampered our preparation for tonight's game.
It's particularly disappointing for the lads themselves though as they were keen to get going. But they will follow the return-to-play protocols as is right to ensure they make a full recovery from the concussions.
Zebre are a team that are massively affected by the Italian national team so we need to take advantage of this and put doubts into their heads from the very start of the game.
We set ourselves pretty high standards as a group and we need to get back to living up to those standards! Starting this evening at 7.35.