I had mixed feelings coming off the back of last weekend. I was obviously as happy as any Irishman at how the boys played against England on Saturday and it was great to see them bring out the performance we in the squad knew we were capable of, eventually, in the Championship, but I was also gutted not to be a part of it.
In all honesty, it really hurt to watch the game and not be a part of a winning dressing room.
There really is no better place than being amongst the lads in the changing room after the game, when you know you’ve given everything and all the hard work and sacrifices have paid off.
Aside from my personal feelings of disappointment on the weekend, from a squad perspective I think the win was a great boost coming into the massive challenge of the World Cup later in the year.
That performance will do wonders for everyone’s confidence and I think it will cement belief in what we are trying to achieve on the pitch in terms of game plan, not only amongst the players but the coaching staff I’m sure as well.
Realistically if we had taken our opportunity against France at the end of the game and we hadn’t conceded that try against Wales, this campaign could’ve had a very different feel about it in my opinion.
Nonetheless, given the position we found ourselves in at the end of the Championship, it was a great way to finish the campaign.
There was no better way to get over the disappointment of being dropped from the Irish set-up than going back into the Leinster camp.
I felt rejuvenated and happy coming back into the dressing room and thoroughly enjoyed my first training back on Tuesday morning.
The banter in the Leinster changing room is phenomenal and it was great to catch up with how things have been going amongst all the lads.
The standard in training doesn’t change when you come back home these days as well, we really have such a hard-working squad at the moment so it was no surprise that it was pedal to the metal straight-off the bat when we got out on the pitch.
There was a real buzz about the challenge we face this week over in Rodney Parade, and we know how difficult a place it has been for us as a team historically, so we really want to put that right this Sunday.
They are a totally different proposition at home and have been on a good run on their home patch, but haven’t been able to mirror that form on the road.
So don’t be fooled by their position in the league. They ran Ulster really close up in Ravenhill last weekend, were only just beaten by Toulouse in their Heineken Cup pool match and beat Munster at home as well.
So they are capable of mixing it with the big teams and they are a dangerous team if they are given time and space at home.
This little period is going to be really important for us and will ultimately shape our season so there has been massive importance placed on this weekend by the players and by the management.
It’s really important we pick right up where we left off with that win a few weeks ago against the Scarlets.
Momentum is key with the challenges we face and this weekend must be the kick-start that helps us through this difficult period of the season, otherwise all the hard work and good mid-season form will have been for nothing.
The pressure is on, and we know it. Now we must revel in it.