Wednesday 24 July 2019

Player's Diary: I'm back, fit and ready to play again with the boys in top form

Rhys Marshall

Rhys Marshall celebrated Christmas in Jean Kleyn's house. Photo: Sportsfile
Rhys Marshall celebrated Christmas in Jean Kleyn's house. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Holland on his 200th Munster appearance. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The last few weeks on your way back from injury can seem to drag on forever, but for once it has been a pleasure making the transition from being injured to available again.

The interpro wins for the boys certainly helped, but a brilliant Christmas in Limerick helped a lot too.

We had an orphan's Christmas at Jean Kleyn's place. All of the squad without family over here all caught up at JK's. There was a few Kiwis and a few South Africans and one or two Irishmen there - it was a great day.

JK is the only one that's ever allowed to cook at these get-togethers and he didn't disappoint again. We had a turducken - a turkey, duck and chicken all rolled into one - and it was unbelievable.

Everyone had to bring a €20 gift that they'd like themselves, so we rolled the dice, passed them around, and stole them from each other. In the end I avoided the socks and ended up with a lot of cheese and chocolate, so I was happy.

Christmas

Having a good Christmas with the boys really helps when you're away from home and since then I've been upping the workload in training. I can't wait to play again.

This week was a big one for me. It is 12 weeks since I picked up the injury against Gloucester last time, and I'm officially back on the board this week.

It's nice to be back in with the boys and all I want now is minutes on the field.

Last week I was pretty close and I thought I was ready to face Connacht, but I did a strength test as part of the sign off and it wasn't quite perfect.

But Monday morning this week I sailed through it - and in the end I'm glad I waited and gave it the extra couple of days. Only time will tell how I hold up but training has been great.

I didn't make the trip up to Galway for the game, but got in some pizza and watched the game at home.

The boys headed up there expecting a wild Atlantic night, but it was calm and a beautiful night to play rugby.

The main aim was to have our set-piece operating at a very high level, to allow our backs time to work.

That front-foot ball hasn't been provided to them as frequently as it should have been but a few tweaks to the maul and a few new ideas and moves to run paid dividends.

A small change-up every now and again can catch teams out.

It wasn't a smooth finish though and when Tyler put in that grubber in the last 20 seconds we all hit the roof in my place... the classic Kiwi trying to play to the last second. I was in ribbons watching it, but we took the win thankfully.

Having that powerful bench to roll out was huge. Introducing a handful of internationals was a key thing in the second half and I think we were deserving winners in the end.

Gone are the days when you have 15 blokes slogging it out: now you have 23 guys who are tactically introduced to ensure the best result.

One of the guys introduced was Billy Holland and it was great to see him win his 200th Munster cap. What an achievement that is and he really deserves any of the accolades that come his way.

On the other hand it was tough on Chris Farrell to pick up a knock again. He has trained bloody hard to get himself back and we did plenty of work beside each other in that time.

He's a real positive guy and will work through this one again and we'll look forward to him getting back.

As well as our wins over Christmas, the defeats for Glasgow Warriors means that we are back on top of the conference. You might be surprised with them losing over in Treviso, but Benetton played really well to take the win. They're a quality side and if you are a couple of per cent off your standard they'll beat you.

With all the results going our way we can't have hoped for a better end to the Christmas period.

It was a great two weeks to beat Leinster and Connacht, and it sets us up nicely for a formidable European trip over to Gloucester.

You only have to look back a couple of weeks ago and we were in no-man's land with regards our league position.

We needed a few results to make sure the PRO14 was back in our control - we have to do that now at European level.

We're a few points clear, but there is only one point between Gloucester, Castres and Exeter so it is really important that we get a win in Kingsholm.

I watched their game with Leicester earlier this week and it was pretty outrageous the time that the ball spent on the park - they love to play running rugby.

Ready

They'll try and do the same against us this weekend and we've got to be ready for that.

We don't need much reminding of how tough these guys are considering they took us on without Danny Cipriani for much of the game last time out.

Thomond Park is a hard enough place to win for visiting teams, but if you lose your out-half it makes it all the tougher.

But they still kept coming at us that day and showed they're a good side to push our 15 men that far.

Travelling over there it will be a really different environment facing a 15-man Gloucester in front of their own support.

The boot will be on the other foot tonight and it's important that we face the challenge with the same standard we've shown in recent weeks.

Irish Independent

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