Winning the mental battle is the tough part when you're injured
Despite being more than halfway through an estimated two-month lay-off due to a fractured fibula, I'm pretty happy with how things are going at the minute.
My injury recovery is going a bit slower than we thought it would at first, but I should be back in three or four weeks, all going well. The aim is to be available again for the Zebre game, but I won't be rushing this comeback.
As often happens it was a bizarre injury. It happened in training one day when Arno tackled Keats, and as he swung around he accidentally booted me in the leg.
At that stage I thought it wasn't too serious, but I dropped out for the rest of the session. I thought it got better and I did my extra work after the session. I was sore but I thought it was just a dead leg.
I went for an x-ray just to be sure and nothing showed up in that, then I went for a CT scan and the injury was picked up there as well as on the MRI.
This is my fifth week of recovery and I started plyometrics on Monday last. I was in the moon boot for two weeks and did quite a bit of work in the pool and once that went well for me we ramped it up again this week on the pitch.
Doing this sort of rehab work is all part of the job and when you're injured you get the chance to work on aspects of your game that you might not be able to due to time constraints when you're playing. But then you also end up with extra time on your hands away from the game, which means you can discover other interests.
Some guys take the chance to do some study, do some work experience, or something like that, but I've started a new sport called Schutzhund with my dog Kody. Basically it's a series of tests and training for the dog including obedience, tracking and protection. It originated in Germany as a test for German Shepherds, but some other breeds like a Doberman, which Kody is, can do it too.
I'm doing it in Farranfore and it's taking a bit of time, but it's a brilliant discipline. It's great for the mind to switch off and focus on something else. You actually get a great buzz from it as well, which replaces the excitement of playing at the minute.
Of all the things that can annoy you when you are injured, your mind is the biggest one. If you're injured and just sitting in all day you can over-think things. Stupid things can annoy you that are not normally a problem.
From my point of view, the good thing is that when I'm not in the HPC I can switch off for the most part. Otherwise it's like having a carrot dangled in front of your face... you're not fit but you're almost here. It can be a tough mental battle. The more you can keep busy when you're injured the better it is, in my opinion.
While I've been out I think the boys have been going well. We're top of the conference and we're winning games. We're grinding it out in the tougher games as well, which is a good sign.
It was a tight one against Ospreys but I thought we managed it well. In the last quarter we played really smart rugby and our game management was what ultimately won us the game.
Darren took his try well early on and it's good to see him back, because he is such a quality operator. The back three have such an abundance of talent at the minute and chances are hard to come by, but every time he plays he seems to impress.
Mike Haley bagged the late try which pretty much gave us the cushion we needed in the closing stages. He is really coming into his own lately. He does the simple things really well, is rock-solid under the high ball and manages the game well for us at 15. He has a touch of flair to his game, but he is not afraid of getting his hands dirty either. I think the more comfortable he becomes in the club we'll see even more of his talents. His running game is superb and once we can find that space for him he'll be an even bigger weapon for us.
Although he had a late call-up for the game, having Tadhg Beirne back was a big lift for everyone. He has had some rotten luck through injury when it comes to Irish selection, but he'll have a huge part to play before the end of the year. I think he is one of the best locks in Europe right now.
Tomorrow the boys take on Scarlets and on their day they are an unbelievable team. I've only ever played at Parc y Scarlets once, and that was when I was a 19-year-old old playing for Ulster and I got about five minutes at the end of the game.
They won the league two seasons ago and they are a real tricky team to play against, especially at the breakdown. They're also very good on their own ball, can attack from anywhere, so we know what faces us. We'll try and focus on implementing our own game-plan on them, so we'll see how it goes.
From an Ireland point of view, I wouldn't get too excited about the Italian performance. Yes, they lost out to England, but mathematically they are absolutely still in the hunt with two games to go. There are big challenges ahead against France and Wales, and a couple of good performances there will quickly turn opinion again.
The boys won't be down in the dumps in camp or anything; we all know how talented this squad is so I'm confident they'll soon be hitting the high notes again.
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