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The lads are refreshed and ready for big finish

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Paul O’Connell wins the lineout for Ireland, but Wales prevailed thanks to their greater accuracy

Paul O’Connell wins the lineout for Ireland, but Wales prevailed thanks to their greater accuracy

SPORTSFILE

Paul O’Connell wins the lineout for Ireland, but Wales prevailed thanks to their greater accuracy

It's been a good week for all of us here - coming back from a break everybody is refreshed, and with what we have to come around the corner we need to be in peak condition to make the play-offs.

We were back into one of our normal weeks by Monday - we had strength work and skill development, with a lot of one-on-ones.

On Tuesday, we had our squad session in Cork where we reviewed the defeat to Ospreys; we went through the most important outcomes, so we can learn and get better going forward.

Once the review was over it's all about the next challenge and starting to build a bit of momentum towards the Connacht game.

As usual we had a bit of a down day on Wednesday, where we just did some work in the gym.

It was on to another full day on Thursday in Limerick and again strength and skill development today, so it was a pretty busy week.

The coaches had a few meetings during the week off and then once this week kicked into gear it was business as usual.

They're all full days, because aside from the time you spend with the players, there's a lot of one-on-ones, plus our own meetings in terms of planning over the next few sessions and the next block starting with the analysis of Connacht.

We will build into this game with a clear focus on certain elements that we feel will be really important.

HOARDINGS

It was a difficult game for both sides last time we met, in very poor conditions in the Sportsground. It was unusual to see ground-staff removing the pitch hoardings before kick-off for fear that they might blow away. Hopefully we will get better weather and both sides will have the opportunity to play a bit more.

We were fine-tuning all of that so we'll have the detail down and can present it to the players early on in our preparations.

It's then a case of fine-tuning as we get closer to the game. The coaches need this prepared in advance of our squad days so that we can make the most of our time on pitch.

This week on Tuesday, we were in Cork, Thursday we were in Limerick and obviously it's easier for me when we're in Cork. It's a 6am start for the travelling coaches either to Cork or Limerick so we can make sure all is in place before the players arrive.

With Munster not playing last weekend, the big talking point of the week was Ireland's defeat and the race for the championship.

I thought it was definitely a case of Wales imposing themselves on the game a bit more and having a better accuracy, rather than Ireland making many mistakes.

Wales came with a plan not to let Ireland play and they stuck to it - they were as effective as Ireland have been in putting their game-plan on the pitch. Wales were very good defensively and didn't allow Ireland a lineout platform to play off.

People will say Ireland could've done this and that but there's still a championship at stake that Ireland are very well placed to win and they've been extremely effective throughout the campaign.

I think it's important that they continue with the way they've been playing and have confidence in their game. I'm sure that they will.

But credit to Wales I thought they were excellent given the amount of possession that Ireland had and the number of tackles Wales were forced to make.

Ultimately Cardiff is a tough place to go and play, Wales are a good side and after maybe a bit of a slow start to the campaign I thought they beat Ireland by playing really well.

They gave a world-class defensive display and were effective with ball in hand.

Ireland can still do it tomorrow against the Scots. Scotland haven't had the best of seasons but I'm sure they'll look for a big performance in Murrayfield to see out the campaign - they've nothing to lose.

Scotland can be a dangerous side; you saw in the first half last week, England looked like they were going to run away with the game but then Scotland came back.

They were a couple of points ahead and I know England pulled away in the end but they're still a dangerous side. Scotland will put in a good shift at Murrayfield but I think Ireland will win and go on to take the championship.

Irish Independent