Not travelling to Edinburgh for our opening European Heineken Cup match was a disappointment, but after the defeat I didn't envy the boys their trip back on Sunday night, or Monday morning's video session of the match. Yesterday I was passed fit and did my first full session in two weeks, so this Friday night I'll be playing in the game against Leeds.
Missing that Edinburgh match also allowed me to catch up with a few old friends, as London Irish were in town for a Parker Pen Cup match against Montauban, but it had been changed from Saturday to Sunday because of the weather. So I met up with the legendary Bob Casey.
I picked him up the Hotel Meava Golf Club on the Saturday and took him to the house to watch the Leinster-Biarritz game, as I have Sky Sports. It was interesting for both of us to see how our old Leinster teammates were progressing. It was good to see them with all their big guns back and it was great to see Shane Horgan have such a good game.
As I predicted last week I think the back-row made the difference. Eric Miller claened up on a Biarritz overthrow and showed great vision and determination to score an individual try. Victor Costello carried the ball well all day. The older he gets, like a good vintage wine, the better he gets.
Biarritz were typical of the old French ailment of not travelling well. It's the same with all French sides. Here at Toulouse last year I tried to get into their heads. Before the game last year I said: "Pas d'excuses aujourd'hui. Bon voyage, bon hotel, bon a manger. Changez le disc dans la tete (cape/inverted 'v' on first e)." Change the disc in your head away from home. We started off badly that day but we ground out a good win in the end.
But on Saturday we gave a typically stale French performance away from home and Biarritz were the same. They just weren't at the races. And you couldn't say the Lansdowne Road crowd was very intimidating.
Leinster destroyed their line-out and individually Shane Horgan had a good game and Eric and Victor were exceptional. They upset Biarritz everywhere and once they got ahead they upset them everywhere. The tries came early and 15 minutes into the second-halfmyself and Bob packed the bags and headed into town because we knew the game was over.
I took him around a few of the sights and a few of the old coffee shops. We met up with a few of the London Irish lads and I took Bob and Mark Mapletoft to the Toulouse shop because they wanted to buy a few bits and pieces. We hooked up with Chris Catling, a full-back with Gloucester who's now with Beziers, and his wife, and I took them down to the Old Melting Pot for a couple of jus d'oranges. We watched the Sale Sharks-Cardiff game and then the five of us went for a meal in J'Go, a good meat restaurant.
The meat was going down well with a bottle of wine and the lads were well impressed when the owner Denis came around with a few extra servings of meat on a tray and some more pomme de terres. He must have seen the size of Bobby. We were then taken into the new bar next door for some free drinks. Again, typical of the friendliness here in Toulouse.
The lads asked Catling if he'd come across me yet, and he had. We beat Beziers in a close game by a point, and his wife recalled that they'd had visitors over from England that weekend. "Chris arrived back not too well that night. The lads told him afterwards in the dressing-room that I had knocked him out."
I thought they were joking but they were deadly serious. Of course I had no knowledge of it, but that wouldn't be the first time. But he took it well, and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses. Out of concussion came a good friendship.
I forgot to mention last week of the troubles in the Montferrand camp. They've been the big disappointment of the French championship so far, and there've been reports of internal rifts, with players complaining they've been training too hard, bitching about wages etc etc.
They're sponsored by Michelin and the coach insisted that all the players be up at 5am last Monday week and to meet in the Michelin factory. They all had to do a 12-hour shift, starting in the factory at 6am and finishing at 6pm, just to see how lucky they were.
I actually thought it was a very good way of making them appreciate how lucky they were as professional rugby players, rather than have to put in 12 hour days for five days a week makihng tyres.
It even made me think. There'd be times when you're knackered, or nursing knocks and bruises, but like any player with a full-time contract - whether you're on a big salary or a small salary - you're able to do something that you love and that you'd probably do for free anyway.
It's a short career, and for anyone who has worked before and is on a professional contract, they would understand. But for fellas who've come straight out of school or college into professional rugby, they mightn't appreciate it as much. We all need a little wake-up call every now and then.
As it happened, London Irish were beaten, but only by six points and have the home leg this weekend. I saw bits and pieces of Munster's one-point away win in Bourgoin. They had to depend on the old reliable Ronan O'Gara again. What would they do without this man?
The two packs fought it out, and Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell upset the Bourgoin line-out, aswell as winning all their own ball. To come away from Bourgoin with a win was a great result for Munster.
On Sunday we had a few friends and neighbours from where we used to live over to watch our game in Edinburgh. We made a good start but you could see after about 20 minutes it was going to be a slow sluggish match. Neither side played particularly well and you wouldn't have been impressed with the standard of rugby. Knocked on balls, both sides losing their own line-outs, scrums being turned. On Sunday night I was imagining what the journey home must have been like for the boys.
Because of that we had a light day on Monday. A stretch after arriving at 11 , followed by a video session looking back on the Edinburgh match at 12. I was glad I hadn't been part of it. Guy Noves tore strips off some of the boys. He made the point that the European Cup was the biggest club competition in the northern hemisphere, that we were the holders, and we had to change something in our minds if we were going to get the best out of ourselves.
He singled out individuals and went though the video with a magnifying glass for two hours. He basically said there was no excuse for that performance.
Tuesday's session was light enough too, scrums and line-outs, and Wednesday was my first full day of running hard. I was named in the team after a two-week lay-off and I'm happy about that. My quod is fine, it's just the blisters that are at me.
For the last week I've been busy putting in a new driveway outside the house with the help of Jean-Luc, the handyman who does everything. I'd forgotten how hard using a shovel and a sledgehammer was. It brought me back to my old days of labouring on building sites. Blisters all over my hands. Two trucks arrived with gravel yesterday, so out with the shovel.
On Monday myself and Paula went to see Intolerable Cruelty with catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney, and then a meal in a nice fish restaurant. Paula's second cousin, Sarah Kelly, is au pairing with us this year which makes these things possible now.
It's a funny film; just light entertainment. Paula maintains that Catherine Zeta-Jones still can't act but what man in the world cares whether she can act or not? (We hope Catherine doesn't us, says Paula, as she sues everyone else.)
Stade Francais are the only French side to be facing an Irish province in the Heineken Cup this weekend. They had a good win over Leicester. Going into that match they had lost four on the trot but they had 12 players away on World Cup duty with four different countries.
Even though French teams don't travel well, Stade Francais could be very dangerous home or away. They'll see last week as the start of their season and, with all their internationals back, will be looking for momentum now. They looked very impressive against Leicester, attacking and defensively. Nick Mallett is very good defensively. They'd be known as one of the best defensive side in France.
As for us, we've made a couple of changes and we'll be looking for a backlash. It's backs to the wall already. If we don't win this one, it's goodbye to the Heineken Cup. You can't afford to lose two games in a row in the Heineken Cup.
Finals Edition: Listen to the best guide to the European Rugby Cup Finals weekend in Dublin, which sees Leinster Rugby take on Stade Francais Paris at the RDS on Friday night in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final and then ASM Clermont Auvergne tackle Toulon in an all-French affair at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.