Tuesday 15 October 2019

After a bright season to date, everyone is determined to finish on a high

Player diary

Rhys Marshall worked hard on his rehab while team-mate CJ Stander was on international duty
Rhys Marshall worked hard on his rehab while team-mate CJ Stander was on international duty

Rhys Marshall

As professional rugby players, we like to break the season down into bite-sized chunks, but the final ten-week block of games is quite the mouthful.

Thankfully, we had a bit of downtime since the Scarlets game and leading into tomorrow's outing with Zebre at Thomond Park, and while some of the boys went off to work on their tans, I stayed behind in Limerick to keep my rehab going.

The weather was pretty rough here, plenty of rain and even a small bit of snow to keep you on your toes, but as well as doing a bit of work on my hammy, I had a knee bursa to rehab as well.

It's a bit of a wear and tear injury, you get fluid on your knee and it took a little bit of time for it to settle properly. It's done and dusted with now and I'm ready to feature this weekend thankfully - if I'm given the nod by the management.

Studies

As well as the rehab work, I had some studies to catch up on, and I'm always happier to keep on top of that work with some busy rugby times ahead.

CJ Stander. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
CJ Stander. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Everyone came back together last week and it was like the first day of school again. I don't know why I was surprised, but we always get our backsides run off us in those days - the international boys seem to miss out on those sessions! - but having the young guys in there with us again really kept us all on our toes.

They were great sessions though - I even ended up giving it a go at tighthead for a few scrums when we were down numbers, but for now I'm happy to stay in the middle of the front-row. I was pretty happy with how I was going after the bit of down time, so hopefully the form is there for all of us tomorrow.

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When you finish off a block like we did with that performance and defeat away to Scarlets, it is a real frustration. We were off the mark for most of the game and as a result of the loss finishing in first position in the conference is now out of our control.

We'll keep looking to win all of our games, but unfortunately we have to rely on Glasgow to slip up now too, which is never ideal. But there are still three more Guinness PRO14 games to go after this weekend and you'd be hopeful that we will deliver big performances in all of them. After Zebre, we have Cardiff, Benetton and Connacht and all four games will be tough ones.

Any time you lose a game you're always keen to get back on the field and this time was no different but we've had to wait.

The big disappointment from Scarlets was that we lost the run of ourselves. Personally, I wasted too much energy trying to force things and I think some of the other boys did the same.

We were in control of possession but the scores didn't come and that was hugely frustrating. We seemed to be within touching distance of their try-line for ages, but just couldn't get there. It took a couple of the senior boys to settle us down, but we shouldn't have to be told those things.

The positive from that loss is that it happened at that stage of the season. It'd be worse if we didn't have those lessons in the bank and the same thing happened in a PRO14 semi-final or the Champions Cup quarter-final. I'd be pretty happy that we've learned from that now and we'd play it differently down the line.

Tomorrow is our first chance to put those lessons into practice and Zebre are a side that we need to be on song for. If you go into a game without the correct respect for any side there is the likelihood they will hurt you.

They might have gone through a tough run of games recently, but they'll see this as a time to start afresh. Like us, they'll have a few of their internationals back for this one too, so we have to be ready for the test.

We've had a handful of our Ireland guys back at various stages this week and a few of them will be involved tomorrow too, while the rest of the boys will be in from Monday when we'll ramp up our preparations for the Edinburgh game, which will be huge.

You might have expected the Irish boys to be a bit down after their loss in Wales but to be fair they came back in with a smile on their faces and didn't let it affect their preparations here.

It can be easy to let those vibes rub off on everyone else, but I think they made a conscious effort to leave it behind them.

I suppose the fact that we have such an exciting few weeks ahead of us might have helped with that, but after a really bright season to date we're all excited to carry on that form and finish the season on a real high.

Busy

It's Zebre tomorrow, Edinburgh next week, before we face Cardiff and Benetton in consecutive weeks. The aim would be to have a European semi-final the week after that again so the calendar could be pretty busy down the line.

While much of our focus was on getting back to training last week, it was really tough to see what happened back home in New Zealand with the attack in Christchurch.

Being so far from your family when something like that happens is really tough, and even though I didn't know anyone that was caught up in the shocking events, it felt like everyone I care about was affected in some way.

After everything that happened to Christchurch with the big earthquake in 2011, for such a shocking event to happen again was hart to work out. To everyone back home, my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

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