Time out has made me hungry for game-time
Player Diary: Ross Molony
And with that the break is over and we're back at it again! A hugely important block of fixtures bringing us into the Six Nations in 2017 but first Round 9 of the Guinness Pro12 and a trip to Parc y Scarlets to get us up and running again. It hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for us over the last few years but I'll get to that again later.
I heard someone in the media earlier in the week asking John Fogarty about these weeks and whether or not it is any more or less difficult to get focused for them and I suppose his and our answer is always the same. The same four points are there to be won this week as there will be in Round 22 of the Pro12.
But there is of course a difference. With the international players away it creates an additional challenge but also opportunities for players. But in most other ways the week and the build-up remains the same as these weeks are so important for us to continue our winning ways in the Pro12.
As I mentioned already, as the group gets smaller, it gives the younger Academy players a great opportunity. This was also the case for me when I got my first taste of Leinster when in February 2015 I made my debut during the Six Nations period.
So over the past number of weeks the senior and Academy squads have trained as one. It is so important for us not to let the standards drop just because senior players may be missing.
The young lads are really stepping up and they are being rewarded for this. The likes of Ross Byrne, Andrew Porter and Rory O'Loughlin contributing well in games and training. Also a massive congratulations to Hugo Keenan and Tom Daly receiving their first caps in this international window.
On a personal level, the last four weeks have been slightly different for me. After chatting to Leo, Charlie (Higgins), Tommy (Turner) and the rest of the strength and conditioning team we set out an individual programme starting the week of the Connacht game.
The aim of this short window was primarily to gain weight and strength through extra gym sessions and less time on the pitch. I also met with our nutritionist, Daniel Davey, a number of times to plan a correct diet and eating times that would benefit me the most. Obviously I was disappointed to be missing out on games but I also saw this as a great opportunity for me to develop physically.
It's something I have always worked on for as long as I have been playing rugby. When I look at world-class second-rows, a common theme is their effectiveness to impact a game physically. This is definitely something I want to develop going forward and these S&C blocks certainly help me with that.
Seeing Ireland perform so well in Chicago and throughout this November series has been inspiring. I was delighted to see so many young players get capped and step up on the international stage. I've known some of those lads since school days in St Michael's so it was brilliant to see.
We will take huge confidence from this when they start to return back into the squad. But for now our focus is Scarlets.
I was integrated back into pitch sessions at the end of last week and began to prepare for this game. I definitely felt the extra weight early on and I was blowing heavily, even through the warm-up!
While we've had two weeks since our last game, Scarlets have continued playing in the Anglo Welsh Cup. Having lost there the last two seasons, I have no doubt they will be match-fit and ready to go.
I travelled to Parc y Scarlets last season where we lost 25-14. I remember we conceded early points and this evidently cost us. So this weekend it is so important we start well, not only to get one over on them but to settle our nerves as well.
I am really excited to be back in the mix and looking forward to taking my opportunity if I hopefully get off the bench tonight. Finally, a huge thank you to those who make the trip to support us - your voices will be heard and it's hugely appreciated as always.