Player Diary - Denis Hurley
I'd love to be there with the boys but it's crucial to get win in Cardiff
It's a big weekend for Ireland and Munster, but we kick it off first against Cardiff at the Arms Park tonight.
I'm not fit enough yet. I'm back running, but the calf is still not fully right so I'm working through the processes and protocols to get back playing again. I will be back playing before long and at this point it doesn't seem far away.
I'm still on track to meet my target. Every player wants to get back quicker than the outlined time-frame and I am not too far off - sometimes as much as you want things to happen your body will tell you when you're right, and when you're not.
It's a day-to-day thing; some days it feels really good and other days it might be a bit irritated. For me now it is just a question of management and looking after it to make sure you are fully right for the next training session. Just another couple of weeks of that and hopefully it will be good. Zebre was the target so we need to wait and see.
Looking ahead to this game with Cardiff, there's a lot of theories about 4G surfaces, and it can be harder on the joints. That said, I would love to be going out on it. Coming back off an injury it's probably not the best thing to be going straight out on, but that differs from one person to the other.
Some guys love playing on it, and their bodies react well, but for others it's different so you need to look at it on the basis of each individual.
The surface makes it a quicker game, the breakdown is not as scrappy and it's a lot easier to get grip. For ball-carriers, they are able to employ footwork that bit more and find space a bit easier.
The ball-carrier should be in a stronger position going into contact too. They can get the ball back quicker. And that makes it a lot easier for the following guys to clean out the rucks. Once they are good and fast, it makes it harder for defences to reload in position quickly and that is where the gaps appear. Once they do it's up to the attackers to exploit them.
That's really where the winning and losing of this game is for us. If we can look after first-phase ball, make sure that our set-piece is right, and get the first carries over the gain-line, that will unsettle the defence quickly. Once the ball gets off the ground from nine and out to next pair of hands, then you create space.
Cardiff have been performing well of late and have a lot to offer tonight - just look at their wins over table-toppers Connacht and Ulster this season, plus they lost by just one point to Leinster and pushed us to the very end at Irish Independent Park earlier this season where we were very happy to take the win in the end-up.
Counter-attack-wise Cardiff have been very dangerous all season long, scoring a number of tries that have nearly gone the 80 metres of the pitch. This is just one of the threats that we need to be mindful of going into the game and if the weather is good, it will make for a fine spectacle.
We have looked at what they are good at, where their real strengths lie, and how we can defend that. But the main focus is going to be on ourselves and how we can manage our own game-plan.
To be attacking with ball in their half is the first thing and then it's up to us to match their intensity, be clinical and make those chances count. Should we do all that, the scores will come.
There are a lot of guys at the moment who are playing really well, and they will be dangerous if they get ball in broken field. For example, Dave O'Callaghan and Robin Copeland are getting a good run of games and if they get on the front foot they can be the big difference in the game. Like every game on Welsh soil, it will be incredibly tough and we as a squad are looking forward to it.
Elsewhere, Ireland face Scotland in what is sure to be another exciting game at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow. It wasn't much of a contest in the second half against Italy last weekend, but that was mainly due to Ireland's good performance, blitzing the Italians off the field and not giving them a chance.
It's great to see that Ireland can punish a team like Italy who didn't show up on the day, despite most people thinking they would have put it up to us. The quality of some of Ireland's tries was a real positive too. It was a win that was needed, and the way it played out, scoring nine tries, was even better for the team.
Looking at the whole Six Nations tournament, Ireland won't exactly be delighted with themselves. They were so close in a couple of games but this is a game of small margins and as a result they are nowhere near the top two spots in the table. Plus, England have taken a handy Six Nations without having to be pushed to the final game.
With Scotland after beating France, they will be in a great frame of mind for this one and that will make it an even tougher game for Ireland. Scotland have a lot of quality players with a number of them showing up quite well last weekend and they too will want to build on last weekend's triumph and close out the tournament on a high. A win would set either team up nicely for their end-of-season summer tours.
Players at international level, take great pride in how they perform in these games and both teams will want to finish confidently, making for a great contest in Dublin tomorrow.