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Sat, Aug
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The diary of a rugby professional

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Back to home comforts after trip Down Under

SATURDAY’S match against Australia was the last game of a long season and I’d say that it took its toll on the lads in the last 15 minutes. Overall it has been a very successful three weeks for the squad but it was disappointing not to be able to crown it with a win.
In the build-up to the second game in New Zealand the squad were 100% focused on proving that the display in Hamilton was not a one-off. In the past Irish teams have been well beaten in the second Test so we were determined to make sure that didn’t happen. 
The lads produced a superb performance against New Zealand in the second Test, especially with the way they came back into it when it seemed to be slipping away.
We showed great confidence kicking to the corner for the penalty before Jerry Flannery’s try and taking a quick tap penalty for Paul O’Connell to score. I think that shows the confidence this team has.
To be honest it was good to get moving again after New Zealand. The players who hadn’t been selected and some of the staff left for Perth the following morning with the rest of the squad travelling that evening. It was a seven-hour flight and it was felt that those who had played would need the extra rest.
At that stage we were all feeling a bit low and in need of a change of scenery. The weather in Perth was much warmer and the hotel was excellent. That lifted our spirits and we spent Sunday enjoying the pool and facilities in temperatures of around 24 degrees. It’s winter here so the locals were bemused by us.
We had a light training session on Tuesday with not much contact and a long video session on Wednesday where Mervyn Murphy, the video analyst, looked at the Australia versus England games in some detail.  We pinpointed a lot of important areas where we could exploit them.
The lads were confident of an upset beforehand. The game was played at the home of Aussie rules side Fremantle Dockers. The stand is a long way back from the pitch, so far that even though we were in the front row it was easier to watch the game on the big screen. 
We made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes midway through the second half just when we had got our noses in front and seemed to have a great chance of winning. I suppose the two games against New Zealand had an effect; they were exceptionally physical games and took a lot out of us.
The result was disappointing and once we got over Saturday night everyone was just looking forward to getting home and having a break. For me, personally, even though I haven’t played since April 28, I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks off before getting back to work with Harlequins in July.
It has been a good tour for the squad. I know it is a bit of a cliché but there is a great spirit in the squad. I think everyone feels we are going in the right direction and the performances over the last three weeks will hopefully give us a lift for next season ahead of the World Cup in October 2007.
Now I have to get on the plane and head home so...bye for now!!
email gavinduffy@mayonews.ie