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'It's tough to miss out again but I did get to show Joe what I can do'


Donncha O'Callaghan, Munster, comes on as a replacement for team-mate Dave O'Callaghan to make his record 241st appearance for Munster

Donncha O'Callaghan, Munster, comes on as a replacement for team-mate Dave O'Callaghan to make his record 241st appearance for Munster


Donncha O'Callaghan, Munster, comes on as a replacement for team-mate Dave O'Callaghan to make his record 241st appearance for Munster

The big news just keeps flowing in Munster! And now that Axel has been named as the head coach for next season, we can start to really focus on ending this campaign on a high.

I am in a pretty unique position I suppose, as Axel has been my forwards coach all the way through, from the academy, 'A' level, B&I Cup and now into the seniors. We have a good working knowledge of each other and in my book, there is no better man for the job.

From a player's point of view I cannot speak highly enough of him. He is everything that Munster is about, he captained the province to a Heineken Cup and that's what we all aspire to. I am really looking forward to working with him as head coach.

All said, we were all pretty happy with the bonus-point win on Saturday night, but it was made all the sweeter when I got the email from the IRFU to come and join the squad this week ahead of tomorrow's game with England.

It's always exciting the night before you join up with the international squad, but after missing out on the November games and the first two Six Nations weekends, it was great to be given the nod again.

With the Triple Crown decider ahead of us at Twickenham, there was obviously a huge focus on the scrum this week and as a result Joe Schmidt decided to call up three looseheads. But, unfortunately, I won't be making an appearance against the English.


For me, step one was getting up to Carton House to be involved with the squad; the next objective is to work my way into the match-day squad for some of the remaining matches.

At this stage, I know I'm going to be back with Munster to take on the Ospreys after missing out on the match-day squad, but the whole week has been superb. Getting the chance to show Joe and all the coaches what I can do again was excellent. And having the opportunity to do it up close and personal in training rather than in a match for Munster is very important.

I really threw everything I had into training this week in an effort to put my hand up for selection, and to be honest, I have been pretty happy with my form. My scrummaging is going better than ever; I have worked very hard on my rucking game and I think that my form with ball in hand is as good as anyone's.

It's tough to miss out again, but still, we all know how competitive my position is at international level. And while it's difficult to miss out on such a huge game, I think I did myself no harm this week and I can't wait to tog out again against Ospreys.

Last Saturday night in Musgrave was all about Donners going past Rog's appearance record, but we certainly got the desired outcome from the game. Getting the five points from the night was great, but we were nowhere near clinical enough. I think we could have put them to the sword a lot earlier. We had a good few unforced errors, poor handling – which we have tried to eradicate from our game – silly things like running into touch, so we let ourselves down on a few things.

We need to fix those things for this weekend if we are going to get any kind of result against the Ospreys.

In the end, I got on for 10 or 12 minutes against Zebre, but overall the scrum went well again. Perhaps, looking back on it, we might have gone for the penalty try at one stage, but CJ took a quick tap at the back and went for it.

Tommy O'Donnell subsequently scored from that move, so it was probably the right decision, but us front-rows always love to turn the screw when we get the chance.

But Donners was the star of the show. Rob put it a great way: he was calling it 'D-Day – Donncha Day'.

I know Donncha very well and you can still see the attitude to his work is still the same as when I used to see him on telly and at games as a young boy. He is still like a lad that is breaking into the team for the first time: he oozes enthusiasm and work-rate, he is all heart and is one of the main leaders of the pack. He'll go from making a huge tackle to picking one of his team-mates up off the ground in a split second. If I get anywhere near that number of Munster caps I'll be more than happy with my lot.

But, hopefully, the next on my list of 40-something appearances is Ospreys on Sunday. They are a right tough outfit – we had a very difficult time against them at the Liberty Stadium last year – and they always bring plenty of physicality to the table.

So, for us to have any hope of taking a win from Swansea we first of all have to match them at that.

But we are confident that we have the ability to take the win. On the back of three home wins in a row, our belief is high, and we think we can get part one of our Welsh test off to a flyer.

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