The Insider: A weekend we'll never forget - I'm so proud
Important for the group to move on and refocus on the Guinness PRO12 by finishing on a high
Pride. It's the overwhelming feeling that I still get now as I look back on the defeat last Sunday to Clermont in Lyon. Pride in how we went about our business on the field and pride in the part that our brilliant supporters played off the field. It was without doubt one of the best atmospheres that I have ever played in and the sea of blue made themselves heard.
Are there regrets or things that I wish we could have done differently? Of course. I said in the immediate aftermath of the game that I felt my own actions or my actions leading to the yellow card were 'dumb' and that is still the case. We needed to be smarter in those opening minutes. We needed 15 players on the pitch doing what they could to stem the Clermont tide that was threatening with every move. But my actions put a dent in those plans.
A weaker team would have folded though. No question about that in my mind. A weaker team would have conceded another 15 points in the next 15 minutes. But we didn't. Even though to fold up there and then would have been the easy thing to do.
The difficult thing to do is rolling up the sleeves and just getting stuck in and staying true to the plan that we wanted to execute from minute one. It was just unfortunate for us that Clermont managed those opening exchanges much better than we did. But slowly but surely we saw that there was a way back. It wouldn't be easy but it was certainly manageable. And we nearly did it.
The frustration in the weeks, months and possibly years to come will be the 'what ifs' because every one of us wanted to play that game again. Wanted to put right the mistakes, wanted to address what went wrong. But of course there are no second chances in games like this and unfortunately there is not even the guarantee that you will get back to that point again.
So I hope in years to come we don't look back on this opportunity as one that was let slip. I would hope that we will look back in years to come on an occasion and on a game that stood to this young team and made them into the serious players that they will become.
This week was about getting back on the horse. Some lads will get a chance to do that immediately - or as good as - tonight in the RDS against Glasgow Warriors and others will have to wait that little bit longer for the Ulster game on tomorrow week. It is important though that whatever team takes to the field over the next few weekends know what's expected of them and of this team. The reality is that, yes, we have a home semi-final secured but we want to finish in first place and secure as a high a seeding as possible.
Tonight will also bring the curtain down on one of the finest careers in Irish rugby when Mike Ross togs out for his last regular season game at home in the blue of Leinster. It is fair to say that a large number of Leinster and Irish players owe a great deal to him for the medals in their pockets. He was quite simply the rock upon which many a scrum was built. But Rossy was about so much more than the prop that held up the scrum. His attention to detail and opposition analysis is the stuff of legend as is his work lately with the younger props.
Tadhg Furlong may be the heir apparent but that didn't impact upon the tutelage Rossy would give him. Rossy always operated in the best interest of the team and of the squad. And he is doing that yet again lately with Andrew Porter, another young prop finding his feet but finding them under Rossy's watchful eye.
The same for Zane Kirchner. A quiet, unassuming man on and off the field yet he has been a passionate supporter of the young players coming through the Leinster Academy and he has willingly imparted his knowledge on them from playing with the Springboks over many years. His legacy isn't just that PRO12 title in 2014 but in the young back three players blazing a trail before us.
Thanks for the memories Rossy, Zane, Mike and all those taking their leave from Leinster over the next few weeks. Here's hoping we can give you all the send-off you deserve.