Tuesday 24 October 2017

All set to hit the ground running back in Cork

Irish Independent Park in Cork, which recently staged the game between the Ireland Wolfhounds and the England Saxons, is all set to host its first Munster game in its refurbished surroundings tomorrow evening
Irish Independent Park in Cork, which recently staged the game between the Ireland Wolfhounds and the England Saxons, is all set to host its first Munster game in its refurbished surroundings tomorrow evening

Anthony Foley

After two weekends without a game it's good to get back to the usual run-of-the-mill preparation this week ahead of tomorrow's clash with Cardiff at the new Irish Independent Park in Cork.

All of our home games have been in Thomond Park so far this season, so there is definitely a buzz among the lads with the prospect of being back playing in Cork again.

It is important for us to make an immediate statement at Irish Independent Park, especially as it will be our Munster base of the next few months.

As a player I always enjoyed playing in the old Musgrave Park. It was a great venue, compact, and it had a good atmosphere in the ground.

It is important that we start the way we want to continue there, that we create a passionate atmosphere, and that comes from our performance on the pitch.

We hope to see the fans coming along to the ground to support us on the terraces and from the stands.

Aside from the venue, this is a massive game for us. We are sitting third in the table, and we see this as an opportunity to get back into the run of the season again after a couple of weeks off.

Cardiff have been playing in the LV Cup in the past few weeks so they will have a bit of momentum going into this game. But it is important for us that we get back into a good Guinness Pro12 form now after our foray in Europe.

TOUGH

We have four games in a row in the league, against Cardiff, Scarlets, Glasgow and Ospreys so it's a tough few weeks ahead.

Hopefully we can start with a good performance against the Blues, who we beat in the last minute over at the Arms Park in what was a very good contest. It was to-ing and fro-ing for long periods of that game and we were lucky to get a result over there.

They are playing an attractive brand of rugby this year under their new coach Mark Hammett. He has them retaining the ball for longer periods, they apply a lot of pressure on the opposition, and most recently in the league they pushed Leinster very close over there.

Looking at ourselves, you'll see a few familiar faces tomorrow, but with injuries and players on senior and U-20s international duty it is important that we have a look across the board.

Players will certainly use the next few weeks as an opportunity while guys are away or injured.

They can use this time to put their hand up and stake a claim on the jersey.

It is a big month for a lot of players - in the Six Nations, those recovering from injuries, and more importantly for the guys that are out there wearing the jersey.

We were delighted to see so many of our players performing so well for Ireland in Rome and I'm sure we'll see the same again tomorrow at the Aviva against France.

It came as no surprise to us to see Ian Keatley perform the way he did in the No 10 shirt - he has being doing it all year for us - while Tommy O'Donnell also deserves credit for his display after coming in at such short notice.

While it wasn't a classic day for the backs, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and Felix Jones (when he came on) all had a lot of good influences on the game. Every time they got on the ball they were trying to make something happen.

The Six Nations is all about building momentum into the competition, and a good away win on day one helps that. Hopefully they can take that into the France tomorrow.

While the game in Dublin will be a bit of a distraction for a few of the supporters I'm sure, our heads will be buried in preparation for the Cardiff game a couple of hours later.

We are expecting them to have a right go at us, so we need to be clued in from the start.

We have worked very hard in the last couple of weeks to have ourselves peaking for this game, and after a week away in training camp and this week's preparations at home I'm happy that we have struck the right balance.

We have a few very difficult games coming up - we face a tough trip to Scarlets next week - and with the top five or six in the Guinness Pro12 so tight, every point is vital.

We aim to get this run of games in Irish Independent Park off to a positive start tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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