10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
...Dave Walsh dotting down at Lansdowne last May...
Suttonians full-back and captain Dave 'Rowdy' Walsh offers his second installment of his season-long player diary, following the Dubliners' first ever campaign in AIB League Division Two.
"Friday, October 13. After a solid week's training, the squad assembled at JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds in Sutton at 3pm to board the coach for our first AIB League Division Two game against Midleton.
"Some of the guys had to take half days from work, others were allowed a few hours off from the more lenient employers. After a bit of a debate we decided that the best route to hit the N7 from Sutton would be to head through town and avoid the dreaded M50. We departed at 3.30pm and arrived at the Quality Hotel in Youghal - 20 minutes from Midleton - at 9.45pm, after a whopping traffic-riddled journey of over six hours!
"With a few DVDs on the bus to pass the time, most of us arrived in good spirits. We headed straight for our rooms for an early night. After breakfast the next morning, the forwards met for a lineout session, albeit without one of our second rowers, Noel 'Lurch' Hehir, whose parents hail from Youghal.
"Noel had surprisingly been summoned down to the local Youghal RFC to sign some autographs and pose for some photographs with their junior members - a proud moment for Noel!
"The backs, meanwhile, met to discuss moves and go over our strategies for the day. We arrived at the ground at 1.15pm and began our match preparation proper, there was a nervous excitement amongst the group and the warm-up went very well. Kick-off time quickly approached and before I knew it, I was leading the lads out for our first ever Division Two fixture which was a moment to remember for me.
"We won the game 26-23 with a nail-bitting finish, with our winger Darragh Mulligan scoring in the corner right at the death.
"After the match, we showered up and then endured the dreaded ice baths to aid muscle healing. Then we went into the Midleton clubhouse to enjoy the hospitality from the club members which indlued a lovely pasta dinner and a few beers before hitting the road back to Dublin.
"The bus journey home was a littler merrier than the trip down!
"Monday involved a visit to the gym during the day and we had a break from our usual Monday night conditioning session. On Tuesday night, we were back into our full regime. Before training, we had analysis of the Midleton game and then we outlined our aims/gameplan for the home game against UCC.
"Copies of DVDs for all our games are available to players who wish to analyse their own game further. Wednesday was back to the gym for a light work-out. Thursday was our final training session before the game on Saturday. The team run went very well.
"Friday before a league game is all about preparing in the best possible way. The hard work is done at this stage and it's just about getting yourself right for 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon. This involves the basics of eating and drinking right as well as resting to conserve energy.
"Meeting time on Saturday was 1pm in Sutton, and as it was down in Midleton the preparation was good and the mood felt right. However, the performance didn't quite match that of the previous week - a poor showing from us saw the visitors take the four points away with a 20-13 win, leaving us with the consolation of a losing bonus point.
"Another blow for us was losing our winger Donagh Fitzgerald who fractured his cheekbone in two places. He was operated on this week and all the lads would like to wish him a speedy recovery. It's an unfortunate set back for him as he had made a good start to the season.
"Losing to UCC was hopefully the early wake-up call that we may have needed - the harsh reality hit home that there will be no easy points won in this division and if we are to reach the goals that we set for ourselves then nothing short of our best each week will get us there.
...Dave Walsh goes on the attack against Clonakilty in last Mays Division Three final...
"We quickly put the UCC game behind us and we're now looking forward to our next game which sees us take on Clonakilty, the team that beat us in last season's Division Three final, down in Shannonvale.
"Last Sunday was used as a rest day with massages available in the club for guys with any knocks or muscle soreness. We stepped it up again on Monday with a trip to the gym for some work during the day and a tough conditioning session with our fitness coach Pat Byrne on Monday evening.
"The Tuesday training session was skills-based to allow us work on some key areas that let us down during the game against UCC.
"Thursday training is game specific and we worked on our gameplan for Clonakilty. We're meeting a little earlier for the bus trip today in the hope of avoiding some of the traffic we experienced on the way down to Midleton.
"It's a long way down to Clonakilty, especially travelling on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend, so the earlier we get there the more time we'll have to prepare.
"We're very much looking forward to our trip to Clonakilty, as with our previous visits to Cork, we're under no illusions as to the task that faces us. Nothing short of our best will be good enough if we want to win down there.
"On a personal note, the fact that my Dad is from Clon adds a little extra to the fixture. There is always good banter between us and our relations down there and I'm sure this will be the case again this weekend. We're just hoping that the quality of their rugby on Saturday isn't as good as their blackpudding!"