I watched all the games in the Kilarney pub in Toulouse except the Welsh game. We had the weekend off so I packed the bags and headed for Andorra. I got the manager Jean-Louis Putinier to book the Rutland Hotel in Andorra and spent three days there, and took full advantage of the duty free prices to fill up the boot with just about everything.
Myself and Danny, my son, took a two hour lesson, but in waiting for the lesson I decided to challenge a slope myself and ended up hugging a tree, screaming for help and having some good skiers coming to my aid. I was going in a straight line but couldn't slow down. A bit like my lines of running in rugby.
There are some beautiful sights on the hour-long drive on the way up along the Pyrenees. There you are skiing on top of the mountains with the sun splitting out of the heavens.
We then lost to Biarritz in the first round of the play-offs on a hut sunny day away from home. Before the game in training I pulled a muscle in my back so on the morning of the match I ended up taking six anti-inflammatory tablets just before the game. Matt Williams and Willie Anderson were at the game according to reports, so I'm sure they had plenty of notes.
Wes rested our internationals, guys like Fabien Pelous, Xavier Garbajosa, Clement Poitrenaud. They weren't used until late on in the second-half and it was a bit too late. We lost 21-15.
The following weekend we watched the English game in the Killarney with about 150 English people, and about 15 Irish. It was a fantastic first 40 minutes and it was just unfortunate for the boys that they gave away that soft try to Dallaglio but as they started to tear away in the second-half Swing Low Sweet Chariot was being belted out in the Killarney.
Of course, there were one or two brave Irish people there, including one girl in particular, Paula Burke from Kilcock. A brave young girl, who pulls no punches with her words, she stood up on a stool and told them what to do with their chariots. Me being the gentleman that I am, I was just hoping a row wouldn't start up or I would have had to come to Paula's aid. Doing a quick head count, I was outnumbered by about 15 to one. In fairness they were a good bunch of English lads and they took it well.
We got back on track last weekend with a good win at home to Bourgoin in the second game of the playoffs. We had everybody back, a full-strength squad. Bourgoin are known for having a very strong forward pack and they got ten unanswered points within the first ten minutes, but we came back and won 37-19. We needed that coming into this big game against Northampton. They are a good all-round side but we're hoping that at home everything will just click for us again. Home advantage will be a big thing.
I spoke to Dennis Hickie there recently and he was telling me that they went to a Christy Moore concert the night before the English game, with Christy breaking into I'm an Ordinary Man and Denis had me listening to the whole song. Christy even gave me a mention and wished me well. The night before the All Blacks game, my last one for Ireland, I got up the night before and sang I'm an Ordinary Man with him.
LLANELLI V PERPIGNAN
Thinking of Llanelli in the Celtic League and European Cup at Stradey Park it's a very hard place to go to, and basically I can't see Perpignan coming out of there with a win. We lost to Perpignan in the first game of the French Championship away from home but later won the home match well. Like most French sides they're very strong at home but Llanelli being Llanelli, in Llanelli, it's like a little coliseum there. The fans are fanatical and they make a lot of noise. These French sides going to Wales or Dublin or wherever, they only bring 200 or 300 supporters. It's very hard for them.
LEINSTER V BIARRITZ
There's obviously a great buzz about rugby back home at the moment if they can nearly sell out Lansdowne Road, and seemingly Biarritz got 1200 tickets and sent back 1,000.They've only 200 supporters coming over and again it will be a very daunting experience for them. I would definitely think Leinster can beat them but in saying that I wouldn't take them lightly. They finished second in their first round group behind Stade Francais and they've won their first two matches in the playoffs. Their pack is where it all happens. They like to catch line-outs flat at two or four and just maul it 30 yards up the pitch. If they get anything going they give it out to their backs, and they've a couple of handy backs as well. But Leinster have a more all-round side and they have more mobile forwards.
LEICESTER V MUNSTER
Munster seem to be keeping very quiet lately and they're always a dark horse but I think it's a very tough task going to Leicester and getting a win. I'd love to see them do it but I can't see them doing it. I came on as a sub in the quarter-finals at Welford Road last year. Again, they just seem to play their crowd. We were in the game for 40 minutes and then they just started throwing the ball to Johnson at 2 and rolling the ball 30 metres. They probably have then best rolling maul in the English Premiership and possibly even Europe. Martin Johnson was telling one of our lads during the Six Nations that Leicester were going all out for three in a row in Europe, that the Premiership wasn't as important. Then again, Munster have won plenty of games which people said they couldn't win.
TOULOUSE V NORTHAMPTON
They've moved it from our stadium, which has 19,000, to the soccer stadium, which has 37,000. The boys trained there on Tuesday and will be training there today and tomorrow. There's a buzz around town and with the win last week everything is back on track. A lot will be expected from our team, but we wouldn't be taking anything for granted. Northampton have got some class players, 16 internationals in total, and if we win it'll be hard fought. But I'd be confident of any match Toulouse play at home. Down ten points last week I didn't feel worried, whereas if we'd have been playing away I'd have said the game was over. From what I've learnt in the last eight months at home especially, when Toulouse play at a home they just play to a different level.
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.