12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
This year we have been given a dedicated fitness coach in Sami Dowling, who has been involved with the Leinster-based Irish players for two years.
He is a major addition to the squad. However, in the middle of a lung-busting fitness session, I can think of many not so nice things to call him!
The Irish players were fitness tested in early July and then retested in September. During the week, players undergo fitness programmes in their provinces which are monitored by provincial fitness coaches.
Apart from that there will probably be no Irish squad session again until November and perhaps some build-up games before the Six Nations next year.
To date, there have been no retirements from the Irish squad this year which is great, so the squad when picked will be a blend of youth and experience.
Lynne Cantwell is one notable absentee from the squad this year as she is gone to ply her trade in New Zealand for the season.
However, it is envisaged that she will be back in May to be considered for the World Cup squad. In Lynne we are not only losing out on an excellent player but one of the great characters of the squad.
If you ever wanted an interesting conversation or a laugh, you would go looking for Lynnie. She better be back in May!
In the meantime, players are busy with the club season kicking off and also with the Irish interprovincial series, involving Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Ulster.
We play the other provinces once, with the top two teams playing off in a final and the other two teams battling out for 3rd/4th position.
Munster will be favourites to take the title after winning it three years in-a-row, but there will be stiff competition from the other provinces, most notably Leinster, who have played Munster in the last three finals, losing each by a single score.
It is great this year to see some ex-internationals back involved in the game, Fiona Steed and Sarahjane Belton coaching Munster this year. In these two, Munster have gained two of Ireland's most distinguished players that are no doubt excellent coaches too.
In Leinster, Philip Doyle, the former Ireland Women's coach, takes over the coaching reigns. Philip was instrumental in the improvement in Irish women's rugby in recent years.
He introduced a major level of professionalism and standards to the women's game at national level and he has now done the same with Leinster. He is ably assisted by Tania Rosser, a current Irish international player, as backs coach,
Tania's coaching ability has already been noted, as she coached Blackrock to an All-Ireland title two years ago. Connacht and Ulster are always somewhat of an unknown but always tough opposition.
As the season kicks off, every provincial player is looking to set out their stall and get selected for the Irish squad.
Fiona Coghlan's blog was first published on www.scrumqueens.com.