Sunday 15 September 2019

The Insider: Waiting game ain't easy - I just want to play

Injuries are part and parcel of any sports career at any level - but that doesn't help your patience levels

Isa Nacewa. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Isa Nacewa. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Isa Nacewa - Player diary

Injuries. There isn't a player playing at the moment, probably in any team, in any sport, at any level, that hasn't gone through them. The talk generally, and it's true, is how you deal with that setback and how you build to come back stronger, making sure along the way that the injury has healed and, even better still, has recovered and is in a better place than before.

But that mindset often also depends on the injury itself. For me, my latest injury was one to my calf picked up in the Cheetahs game. Bad enough to warrant a substitution and rehabilitation but not serious enough to rule me out for months. But now you are caught in no man's land!

If you are ruled out for months, then yes you go away, you have a period of acclimatising if you will, taking stock of your new predicament, getting used to your new rehab schedule away from the rest of the team. But then you start to set targets. Return in 12 weeks? Let's aim for ten.

With a shorter-term injury the temptation is always to push it and to see how you go and to see how it feels. Sometimes the mind and the body say one thing...and then that's when the Leinster physios and S&C team step in!

And that's where I have been on this calf injury. It was great to get back running last week in UCD and I felt good and while some journalists were laughing at me at the Champions Cup launch when I said I felt good for Munster, I genuinely was that positive. You have to be.

But you also have to be a realist and you have to listen to the team behind the scenes that know the tell-tale signs, that know when you are likely to break down and you heed their advice.

Leinster face a Montpellier side who are sitting pretty in the Top 14 thanks to new additions like former Ulster No 9 Ruan Pienaar. Photo: Getty Images
Leinster face a Montpellier side who are sitting pretty in the Top 14 thanks to new additions like former Ulster No 9 Ruan Pienaar. Photo: Getty Images

Men like Charlie Higgins, Garreth Farrell, Karl Denvir, Diarmaid Brennan, Fearghal Kerins and Cillian Reardon. Doctors John Ryan and Jim McShane. Our masseur Thomo and his team. Peter Tierney and his box of GPS tricks. They rarely get the headlines but they are the ones working night and day to keep us on the pitch or making sure we get back there as quickly as possible.

If you break the week down it is multi-faceted between pitch sessions and gym sessions and at any given moment your body could give up or your body could react really well to the treatment and the training. And again, the key piece here is to listen to the advice and to take heed even when every fibre of your very being is saying, 'Yeah, but I'm good to go'.

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So that was me last week! Back running and great to be back but also conscious of a massive few weeks and months for the club and not wanting to jeopardise my own season before it has really got going.

This week has been good. Munster gave us plenty of food for thought and as we then switched our focus to Montpellier, it was good that we were able to look at a game of high intensity where questions were asked of us in every facet of play. The same will undoubtedly be the case against Montpellier tomorrow.

Last season we had to work so hard in France in Round 2 to come away with the losing bonus point. It wasn't much consolation at the time but that point would prove hugely worthwhile as the season wore on and ultimately was a big factor in us earning a home quarter-final in the Aviva against Wasps.

That was then. This is... well this is a very different Montpellier. They are dominating the French Top 14 league with 31 tries in seven games and are sitting pretty in second place with only two losses. Why are they dominating? Well, they are sticking to what they know and what they do best and with a new coach in Vern Cotter they have a very streetwise coach who has been there and seen most with Clermont and of course with the Scotland national team.

He has recruited heavily during the summer and a team that already had stars sprinkled throughout the match-day 23 now has superstars in Pienaar, Cruden and Picamoles. But that is a challenge that we relish. The Leinster model is of course very different and I think it's a source of huge pride for Leinster and Irish rugby that we will take to the field with so many home-grown young players. From the ground up. Can't wait.

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