23 May, 12:21
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
The adrenaline surge of winning can sometimes mask how tired you feel in the immediate aftermath of a game and that certainly was the case after the Italian match.
I was glad to get back to the Shelbourne hotel and chill out. I've been to so many of these post-match functions that the novelty factor has long gone.
There is also occasionally a language barrier. Marco Bortolami and Sergio Parisse, two of the recent Italian captains, both speak very good English.
My Italian is non existent, outside of a few words, and so it was difficult to converse with Leonardo Ghiraldini, the Italian captain last Saturday.
The following day I watched France beat Scotland and visited my nieces and nephews, which is always a pleasure before heading back into camp. The overwhelming feeling after last weekend was to try and maintain a sense of perspective.
There wasn't any sense of celebration and that would have been the case irrespective of the performance. We won our first match of five that we have to play in the tournament, nothing more, nothing less.
A few of the boys stayed up to watch the Super Bowl but I needed the rest - if I had started to watch it, I would have stayed up for the duration. I did catch the touchdowns on the news the following morning.
We pack a great deal into the Monday and Tuesday in terms of training, team meetings and analysis so that we can slip away for a midweek break from camp. You have to be switched on and concentrating to absorb all the information but the work/rest split definitely works well.
Borrowing Earlsy's (Keith Earls) darts has definitely turned me into a better player. I even managed to beat Johne Murphy despite leaving a one, double one checkout.
Stephen Ferris can work out in an instant the best way to finish from 170 down: for the rest of us it is a more laborious process, complete with the odd miscalculation.
Saturday in Paris is all about starting well. We have spoken about this quite a bit. We have proved that we are capable of scoring against the French but that we can not give them a head start and hope to successfully chase them down.
A good start is most definitely half the battle when it comes to being competitive in Paris.
Brian's Blog: Day One - Pre Ireland v Italy
The Ireland camp which was based in Limerick after the final round of pool matches in the Heineken Cup resembled a bit of a warzone - at least it looked that way from a Leinster back's perspective.
There were more of us on the sideline than out on the pitch. While we looked on, toasting nicely under blankets provided by Rala (bagman Paddy O'Reilly), the rest of the boys got on with the business of preparing for the Six Nations Championship.
There were a few new faces in players like Willie Faloon, Ian Whitten, Jamie Smith and Eoin O'Malley, young guys who were given a taste of what they can aspire to hopefully at some point in the future.
I had a bit of a quad strain and was limited in what I could do, but it has cleared up nicely and everything's fine this week.
Unfortunately the same can not be said for Jonathan Sexton. He'd carried a bit of a leg injury into the London Irish game and in fairness did very well to play, particularly as effectively as he did.
When you're that age and fighting tooth and nail for a place on any team let alone the national side, you'll always push yourself that little bit more. Sometimes that can backfire through sheer bad luck and he's been ruled out of Saturday's game against Italy.
It would have been a tight call between Johnny and Rog (Ronan O'Gara) anyway. We are very fortunate to have two guys who read the game as well as they do.
Darts has become the new table tennis in the Ireland camp. We got a board into the team room and it's already becoming pretty competitive.
Keith Earls is a regular practitioner at home where he'd square off against his dad and has brought his 'A' game...and his own arrows to the team hotel, the Killiney Castle.
Stephen 'The Power' Ferris was the first player to hit a maximum (180) - it was vouched for by witnesses - while my best effort so far is a ton. I have to confess to having a dartboard at home (never used) and a couple of sets of darts; that Tungsten will be travelling to Dalkey from now on.
Denis Hurley is definitely going to get better based on the hours he's spending at the oche. The games of choice at the moment are Killer, 301 (double to start, double to finish) and 501.
As you'd expect at this stage, the Italian game can't come quickly enough. We've trained well and while it'll take time to slip back into a groove as a team, we're looking forward to the challenge.
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