We know we're heading towards period that will define our season
This week has been all about getting back into the swing of things after taking a few days off to rest the bodies. We all had the week off.
A few lads had to hang around for physio and rehab, but for the most part everyone had the chance to recharge the batteries after a long stretch from the start of pre-season.
In saying that, there wasn't much down-time really. Without a game for a couple of weeks, it was an opportunity for me to put in a lot of extra work. I did a good few weights sessions to get some money in the bank in that regard. It's great to get a bit ahead in terms of some of the gym work.
I did manage to take a few days off as well. I went over to London and took in some of the sights. My girlfriend is living there at the minute, so it was good to get over and visit her for a few days.
We ended up going to see 'The Lion King' – a great show, I highly recommend it. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. At one stage there I really didn't think Simba was going to make it, but fair play to him, he stepped up to the plate!
Getting away was a nice distraction from everything, but still I watched both of the Ireland games. Just because I wasn't involved didn't mean I could switch off.
To a certain extent it was tough not being involved with the squad, but for me now it's all about turning the focus back on my own performances, controlling what I can control and finding a good vein of form.
You could wreck your head looking at the games and thinking about the 'what ifs', but at this stage I think it's important to focus on getting my own game primed.
I'm sure the whole squad has been disappointed this week. They really didn't put in a good performance against Australia and they won't need anyone outside of the group to tell them that. I'm expecting a huge reaction and a top performance from them against the All Blacks.
If they manage to win on Sunday it would be their first victory ever over the brilliant Kiwis. There are plenty of motivating factors there for the lads: the chance to end the visitors' unbeaten record this year, the chance of a first win against New Zealand, and the chance to put things right from last week.
Getting back to the home front, this really is a massive couple of weeks for us. We are facing into nine consecutive weeks without a break, so it is going to be highly intensive and competitive up until Christmas.
This period will define our season. If we hit a bump on the road now, we could be left with very little to play for after the new year – that's how important the next while is for us.
Tomorrow, we travel to the Arms Park to face Cardiff Blues, and we know how important it is to maintain the form we had before the break.
These next two games are going to be huge. I took a look at the Dragons v Leinster game in Newport and the Dragons played very well. They are going to be really tough opponents.
But before any of that we have to focus on Cardiff, and after they beat us in Musgrave Park last year, there is no chance we will not be ready for them. For sure it is going to be a very testing six days for us.
I missed out on the trip to Cardiff last year because I was away on international duty, but from what I saw it was a tough game. If I get a run tomorrow it will be my first time to play at the ground.
It is a place steeped in rugby history – so many of the game's greats have strutted their stuff there and it's somewhere I am really looking forward to playing at.
It is probably a little different to the days of Gareth Edwards now, with the new 4G AstroTurf pitch there – that will be another interesting experience, playing on that surface for the first time.
We have a 4G pitch at UL and we have done a bit of training there, but it will be interesting to see how it goes. It's a quick surface, but it should be good for running rugby.
I managed to injure my groin doing weights during the week off. It was nothing major, but it was felt I shouldn't take part in the AstroTurf sessions, just to be on the safe side. A few of the lads said it is fine for scrummaging, it takes a good stud. But I wouldn't play without my 21s: 4G or tarmac, I'd have to have the long studs in.
This week was a little different in that we did a bit of prep work that will suffice for the two trips to Wales. With the short turnaround next week, we had a double session on Tuesday.
That's the first time this year that we had a double pitch session and there were some heavy legs at the end of the day.
Tuesday was a tough day, but it was work that needed to be done as we'll probably only have one pitch session next week. The joys of back-to-back away trips!
We really got through a lot of work, though. After the week off and the training week last week, it was good to give the lungs a good blowout. I think we'll need every bit of that extra endurance work to earn the win tomorrow.