Since the last time I wrote a player diary for the Dragons week, a lot has happened. Back then I mentioned how we targeted the block of four consecutive games during the Six Nations. These games were crucial for us to stay in control at the top of the table.
Coming out of that block with 20 points out of a possible 20 was a massive lift for us as a squad. The fact that many internationals were away and the rest of the squad stepped up is a huge confidence-booster for us. Especially coming into the business end of the season.
This block has to also be seen in the context of where we have come from as a group. In years gone by we have come up short and I mentioned a few years back where we lost two and drew once in the four-game block and that this ultimately cost us a spot in the top four come season's end. There was a steely resolve to ensure it wouldn't happen again. But then you have to back it up and I'm delighted that we did.
We then enjoyed a well-earned week off from training. I even managed to get a few days in the sun! After a tough four weeks' work it was certainly nice to switch off.
Meeting up on the Monday after the week off, everyone seemed to be fresh and excited for the week ahead. That training week had a pre-season feel about it. High-volume training and a few extra gym sessions later in the week. The improving weather helped a bit, but I was definitely glad to see the end of that week after a few tough days!
I was lucky enough that my dad had a spare ticket to the Irish/English match. I was delighted for Dan Leavy and Luke McGrath that they made their Six Nations debuts. Luke hasn't stopped talking all week about how good his box-kick was!!
On a serious note, the physical Irish defensive performance is something we can learn from. They shut out England's key players with massive hits which rattled them early in the game.
With Wasps only around the corner, this is something we can use going forward. There is a lot of crossover with the likes of Elliot Daly, James Haskell and Nathan Hughes to name but a few so again we have to take confidence from going toe to toe with players of such high quality and coming out on top. Just!
The other element that is maybe under-appreciated is how much the international players will have learned from the Six Nations games which we hope will be a great benefit for Leinster and the wider squad. This experience and exposure to a higher level will feed through the squad and stand to us over the next few weeks. I am extremely excited to be returning to the RDS for tomorrow's game. Cardiff will be coming to Dublin looking for an upset. They are a team who travel well with notable wins in Edinburgh and Munster in Cork at the start of the season.
As a forward, I suppose they have several key players which include Josh Navidi and Nick Williams in their pack who will look to disrupt us at the breakdown, while Alex Cuthbert and Tom James are two strong ball-carrying wingers.
It's great to have all our international players back in training. This has added to the high tempo which we have shown in training over the last number of weeks. The match-day squad has been prepared to the best possible standard and there has been a huge boost in confidence from the return of the international players.
As training standards increase so does competition for places. Personally, my goal has always been to be consistently playing for Leinster. This requires performing to your full ability at all times and giving the coaches more options when it comes to selection.
I am looking forward to the energy and the noise that our loyal supporters will bring to the RDS tomorrow. Hopefully we can respond with a good performance which will put us in a really good place ahead of the Champions Cup quarter-final next week in the Aviva Stadium.
With the stakes getting higher in both the Guinness Pro12 and the Champions Cup, there are exciting times ahead!