Nothing like a week in the wild to get ready for our Kings battle
Player's Diary: Rhys Marshall
This week has been all about juggling my responsibilities. On the rugby side we prepared to face Southern Kings at Irish Independent Park tonight, while I had to toil through an exam on Wednesday. I'm a sucker for punishment!
Because I'm aligned with the school year in New Zealand this exam in Agriculture and Horticulture Infrastructure was actually a semester one paper. The first term starts now and finishes in June and the second one ends in November.
I've just got to keep ticking off the modules, because you never know when you'll finish up as a player. There is no point in me dreaming that I'll play this game until I'm 50 because it's not going to happen.
This week was pretty busy around the HPC in Limerick, with most of the guys back from Six Nations duty and involved ahead of tonight's game. Last week we had a pretty tight group training: some of the experienced squad members, more of the young pups that are breaking through and then some club players in there too. After a few days away we got back together on Wednesday last and it turned into a brilliant three days' training before the weekend. We were flogged for those three days.
One of the toughest tests that we do is a 1km run against the clock. Your times are recorded every time you do the test. You have to empty the tank and it's a killer.
One of the young hookers that's in the academy, Diarmuid Barron, really showed his engine in that and ran an unbelievable time. When I see one of the young hookers doing that, it keeps me really honest about how fit I am at the moment. When you have a young fella like Diarmuid there it really puts the pressure on.
We had Billy Scannell in there too with us last week... another Scannell, there is no getting rid of them. He did well too and he is one of quite a few young guys coming through. On these weeks it's great to check out these guys, scrummage against them and see how they're coming along.
The thing is, you never know where the next Fineen Wycherley or Peter O'Mahony will come from. A few of those guys put their hand up last week and they have been really training well. Making an impression in training will lead to game-time at some point, so it's always great to watch.
Before we got back we all had a great break, and ten days off in a row is a rarity in the middle of the season. I shot away to Finland for five nights. We flew in to Helsinki and then made our way up to the wilderness further north in Rovaniemi. We stayed in a hut without power and water for the few nights. It was a really cool escape.
We thought it was cold in Ireland, but this was another level. When we got there it was about -14°C and it dropped to -18°C when we were walking in. It was a 5km walk into the hut so we felt that. It was a case of snow shoes on and we just ploughed ahead. We spent a couple of days searching for the northern lights, but it was too cloudy. There was a small bit when we arrived but that's how it is sometimes.
I flew back home on Monday and we all came back in for training last Wednesday, but it is really good to be back on the field again after the injury. I made my first start against Dragons last time out and I got two bloody calf cramps and I looked like a bit of an idiot. It was a timely reminder that I hadn't pushed in a scrum, tackled and got off the ground for 12 weeks. It takes the toll on the old body.
So the break didn't come at an ideal time for me, but I still was happy to switch off a bit. I still had work to do, a bit of gym and a bit of fitness, which kept me ticking over nicely.
Because of the game being on a Friday, we had Wednesday off this week and had our captain's run on Thursday and we nailed down a couple of small things there. After a couple of weeks off it's important we're all on the same hymn sheet.
We're back in action tonight, but back home the Super Rugby season kicks off this weekend too and I'll definitely tune in for the Chiefs game. The first game of the year is always a big occasion. It'll be good to see how they are shaping up going into a World Cup season.
The last few weeks have been all about the Six Nations here, and it's great to see our Munster boys impressing. To see guys like Chris Farrell, Dave Kilcoyne and Joey Carbery taking their chance was brilliant. Chris especially, he's been out for a long time, so we're delighted that he's back in the international set-up.
Having some of those boys back with us for tonight is a real bonus, and I think we'll have to be at our best for this one. The Kings are going to be coming in hot for this one; we need to be on song.
Coming here they'll have one aim and that's to take our scalp. We have to put in a performance that we're proud of. They have caught big teams off guard, one of them being Glasgow. We know how good Glasgow are, so we have to make sure we don't get caught in that trap. Our preparation has been no different to that of any other game: we're clued in on what we have to deliver.
The great thing is that we know what to expect, and with it being played on a 3G pitch they are dangerous. They can be a devastating team as we have all seen in recent weeks. We don't want to give them a sniff, so it's about playing to our strengths in this one.