WE are facing into a testing period of four games in four weeks, so, starting with the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park tomorrow, it is vital that we get off to a good start.
The most pleasing thing about the two games before the break was that there was a significant improvement in the team's performance. Prior to that, we had been winning matches but there was plenty of room for improvement in a number of areas.
There was a marked increase in intensity, especially in all the contact areas. Our defence continued to dominate. We played with a level of physicality that the Munster supporter's could really identify with. Our skill, accuracy, ball retention, depth and variety of attack, put Gloucester and Edinburgh under a lot of pressure.
But it wasn't just at senior level that the boys impressed us – the B&I Cup team were outstanding again and made it through to the quarter-finals, where it is unbelievable that we have been paired with Leinster 'A' again.
Fair play to Peter Malone and all the boys, they have been brilliant. We have been able to field a really strong side in the last couple of 'A' games and what that has done is given us a huge number of lads who have good game time under their belt ahead of tomorrow's game.
We have used over 40 players in the Rabo this year and we are facing four games in a row without our international players.
We have a number of injuries as well, but there are no concerns about the standard of player we have available for selection.
We have a lot of quality right across the squad now and our expectations going into these games are to win all four. That's the levels of confidence in the squad right now.
From that B&I Cup campaign, we will have five or six guys involved tomorrow.
Barry O'Mahony will be starting, he has captained the 'A' side in the last two weeks and he has been rewarded for some very good performances.
We also made a decision for CJ Stander to go back and play with Peter's side, so he would come into this batch of four games with rugby under his belt. He was excellent the last day, too, and I'm sure he will impress tomorrow at 6.
Niall Scannell and John Ryan have also made it on to the bench on the back of two particularly good games. And behind the scrum, Denis Hurley impressed at 12 in the last two games.
We were keen to look and see if he could also be an option for us in the centre, going forward. He starts there again against a very good Cardiff side and it will be a challenging night for him, but he has such experience and is such a talented player, I'm sure he will excel. Another man to start tomorrow is Gerhard van den Heever, who was injured in his first game against the Dragons. He played in both the recent B&I Cup games and what those games have given him is a chance to understand how we play the game.
It has given him an opportunity to understand our structures and framework and he impressed in both games. I thought he really demonstrated how much value and how effective he will be for us.
Preparation this week has been excellent.
We had a really good couple of days early in the week and because the group has changed a little bit, we made the decision to have a two-day mini camp in UL. We got together on Monday, did a bit of classroom work, goal setting and organisation which gave us real clarity on our game plan over the next month.
But still, tomorrow will be a very tough test for us. We are coming off the back of two weeks without a game, while the Blues have had an LV Cup game to warm-up.
But we are looking to win – we have set our targets and we want the win. The group have spoken strongly about maintaining their standards over the next couple of weeks.
Rather than seeing a drop from our Heineken Cup standards, in the next four weeks they want to drive them on and that starts tomorrow against Cardiff.