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.
The typical routine for the weekend entails a morning and afternoon session. The short trip down the road is always great craic as we have our token tunes on the way.
Eliza Downey this weekend rocked her car with power ballads so the poor town of Malahide experienced some seriously off key notes, but they should be used to our lovely renditions of country classics courtesy of Shannon Houston on previous weekends!
Training over the two days went well and showed how we've come to be a more polished unit as a team and hopefully that will be seen in our warm-up game against Wales.
Today ( Saturday) we were given a rare sleep-in of sorts, we had free time post-breakfast to head back to sleep before we headed to the beach for some team bonding.
The team bonding session had all of us, including management, muck right in to a game of rugby baseball. The forwards, led by 'Goose' (head coach Philip Doyle) and Ulrick (team physio), were first up to bat.
The game was brilliant craic and we saw some interesting kicking, to say the least, that often had the fielders at a loss and the kickers themselves.
Fun it may have been, but we are a very competitive bunch and there were some serious dives into the bases notably our captain Fiona Coghlan taking out Shannon.
There were also a few bumps from our fielders clashing into each other, while poor Ulrick on one occasion got a bit of a bump of Kate O'Loughlin - making work for himself!
Like any game of rounders I experienced when I was a kid, the rules were sorely contested and it was good that we had appointed Len Browne, our video analyst, as referee to sort out any disputes.
Len marshalled the game well while we laughed as Lynne Cantwell and Niamh Briggs feigned hysterics about his decisions. Although the forwards led for most of the game, a late surge by the backs sealed their win 6-5.
Sure, they should be good at kicking anyway as they are backs...not that us forwards are sore!
In the afternoon we got a bus to the Aviva Stadium for the O2 Challenge match. As we neared the stadium, I must admit I was awed by the scale and presence on the skyline. The sheer spectacle of steel and glass was a very different sight to the Lansdowne Road we knew before.
We were lucky to be seated pitchside behind the posts in the North Stand. The view of the pitch and of the stadium itself was amazing. We knew at that point that going out at half-time was going to be something else, something we will always remember.
Just before half-time we were called by the IRFU staffer and brought into the heart of the stadium just by the tunnel to the players' entrance. We were all taking photos everywhere in the area, taking in the whole experience.
As the time came we filed neatly in line all nervous, doing our various touch-ups to hair and make-up and even bestowing a few handbags on our guide! Well, we are ladies at the end of the day!
We walked slowly out to huge applause and I can only imagine what it would be like to play here and how I envied the young guys who had just finished the half.
For a minute-and-a-half out there, we were the focus and it felt hugely humbling and unifying. We waved to the crowd and walked back to our seats along the side of the pitch.
It is still humbling to believe that a crowd of 35,000 welcomed us onto the pitch and that we were the first international side to step on the Aviva Stadium pitch.
We decided to try and add another first by starting the first Mexican wave round the stadium. After a few initial attempts and with the help of the mini rugby teams from Ballincollig, Buccaneers, Portadown and Mullingar, we managed to get a quarter of the stadium on their feet. Sadly, we couldn't get the other three quarters to join in, maybe next time.
I found myself tired after the whole event, the whole experience was overwhelming. That's a good thing, though it means I will sleep well tonight before we play Wales tomorrow.
Focusing back on the match, Wales are a tough side to play. They bring an intensity to every game which, if not met, can swing the game in their favour.
After seven weeks of preparations and with this being our final game before we depart for the World Cup, it is a vital fixture to show how we have progressed and to get a good performance.
Ireland kick off their Women's Rugby World Cup campaign against hosts and tournament favourites England on Friday, August 20. You can follow Claire's blog and the progress of the girls in green right here on IrishRugby.ie.
Related Links -