Tadhg Furlong: 'Girvan's input will be major help to Bath in big week for both clubs'
December is here so with that Christmas is only around the corner. It's a time of the year that I love so the Christmas tree is already up at home and the Leinster lads are getting into it. The dressing rooms are already decorated and a few Christmas songs have been on and a bit of craic had.
It's a great time of the year and this year there is an added scheduling bonus. With no games on St. Stephen's Day, everyone is also looking forward to a day or two extra at home and depending on how the squad selections go that could be a very enjoyable break at home with the feet up.
Last week Seán (O'Brien), Rob (Kearney) and myself were invited on to the 'Late Late Toy Show' to celebrate a brilliant young man, Scott Lowe from Athlone, who is only eight years of age.
A year to the day before the Toy Show, Scott had gone under the knife in a most selfless and brave way when acting as a bone marrow donor for his younger cousin Grace, who had leukaemia. Scott is an Irish rugby fan so we were invited along to surprise him.
It all came about quite late in the day given our commitments with Ireland but when our agent Dave McHugh dropped us a line in the lead up to it and when he then explained the set-up, we were delighted to help. It was great to meet Scott and Grace, as well as the whole family after the show, and we're already looking forward to having them as our guests at the Aviva Stadium for the Captain's Run and then the French game itself next year.
Rob put it brilliantly when he said that Scott - and indeed other kids and people like Scott - are the real heroes and it was humbling for us to meet Scott, and Grace, and hopefully they have a sense for how appreciative we and indeed everyone is of acts like these.
The Guinness Series with Ireland was pretty special. For me, it started off with Chicago and the Italians. I wasn't involved in that match-day squad but myself and a few others travelled over as cover. It was great to be able to prep the lads and even better to see such a performance. It was also good to be back in a city where we enjoyed such an historic moment only two seasons previous and a first ever win against the All Blacks. Good memories of a brilliant week.
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It was then back to Dublin for Argentina and New Zealand. Obviously two good wins and we enjoyed them both but there is something extra special about a late kick-off and we really saw that for the All Blacks game. I've never known an atmosphere like it and it started the moment we left the Shelbourne Hotel. The drive to the stadium, the noise, the colour. It was a brilliant game to be involved in and a special day. I was retained in the squad for the USA game until Tuesday of the following week but then let away. It was good to get home as always but also to catch up.
When you are squirreled away in camp like that calls, emails and texts go on the long finger and three weeks leaves you with a lot to catch up on! So it was good to get back to normal and then catch up with a few people. I also managed to get to a night in Adare Manor for Conor Murray.
It was organised by his club, Garryowen FC, to celebrate his career to date but also to launch their Legacy Foundation and it was a great event for a special player and a good guy. A few of us went along from Leinster and it was good to see a few of the Irish lads again and to catch up with a few former players as well. But that was the mini-break over with and we were back in to UCD then and getting our heads around the calls and the plan for Bath this week.
To be fair, the lads have done brilliantly while we were away and it's been great to see not just the results but also the debuts for young lads like Scott Penny and Jimmy O'Brien. It got me thinking about my own debut and actually the road to this point. I had a few bumps along the road and a few injuries. Had my shoulder done, had a serious enough kidney injury and then sliced my finger open in the gym. All injuries that I suppose held me back a bit but I got there in the end.
One man that played a massive role in those years was then Academy Manager Girvan Dempsey who was obviously a key part of Leinster over the last few years as Backs Coach but is now in a similar role at Bath. He was very good to a lot of us lads as we made those first steps in the professional game and I'm sure he is having a similar impact over there now. He is a massive asset to them on a week like this.
I actually made my first European start against Bath in the RDS in January 2016. We had six lads starting for the first time in Europe that night and I think that energy and excitement played a massive role in the performance. Looking at the young lads and the highs that they've experienced these last few weeks you think of all the work that goes in at club and school level to get them to this point and the, hopefully, long Leinster journey ahead of them all. We all have to start somewhere. Whether that's Garryowen, New Ross or Newbridge, our clubs and schools all play their part and it's important to celebrate and recognise that.
Not sure if anyone will be making European debuts this weekend against Bath but it's been a great three years since my last game against them and I can't wait to run out at the Rec for the first time on Saturday.