Win against Treviso will round off a great trip
Our camp in Italy this week has gone very well and the main objective now is to round it off with a victory over Treviso this evening. The week in Italy has given us the opportunity to get a lot of work done on and off the park.
We don't spend that much time in camp and the players and management have enjoyed the change in environment.
The primary aim, of course, is to return home with two victories from these games, but there has also been a good chance for players to bond while getting a lot of work done.
Travel is part and parcel of the professional game, but you try to minimise its impact on performance on the field and that was one of the reasons we explored the option of staying in Italy if the games against Zebre and Treviso took place on successive weeks.
The reality is that for us to go to Italy, most of the time we need to travel to Dublin. For example, this week that would mean travelling to Dublin on Wednesday, staying overnight and having an early morning flight. It would have been the same last week.
Instead, we travelled out last week, stayed in Parma for the Zebre game and then on Saturday travelled north to Lake Garda.
We remained there until Wednesday when we moved to Treviso which allowed us to do our captain's run here yesterday ahead of this evening's match.
Our facilities in Lake Garda were perfect. The hotel is more accustomed to hosting soccer teams – they have four or five pitches – but they went out of their way to accommodate us.
I think they got a shock with the amount of food rugby players eat and I don't think they realised the amount a few dozen rugby players will hoover up in one sitting! But they weren't long copping on that rugby players have bigger appetites than footballers and the plates kept coming.
The weather was ideal for training, about 22-23 degrees each day, but there has been cloud, so it has not been too hot. It's been busy off the field as well.
We have had to finalise the Heineken Cup squad this week as well as doing the the usual things like dealing with injuries and seeing who is available for the Treviso game.
Ian Nagle and Tommy O'Donnell went home after picking up injuries.
Otherwise, the trip has been a big success and all we need to do now is round it off with a win over Treviso. We know that won't be easy, but we are pleased with our approach to the game.
It was good to pick up another bonus point win against Zebre, but we didn't make it easy on ourselves, conceding a couple of tries in the opening half.
One of the tries was good, in fairness, but we were caught napping for the other.
But great credit to the players, they took control of it, turned it around and by the end of the night another five points were in the bag.
It was great to see the way the young players kept their composure and dealt with the challenge. That was very encouraging. Hopefully we will have more of the same this evening and we return home with another win.
It will be a quick turnaround for 11 of the boys who have been called into the Irish training squad, as they will get home and have to head up to Carton House on Sunday.
But I've no doubt that is a journey they would prefer to be doing than not doing. It's just a busy time for everyone.