We meet up for the 'coach's run' at 10.30. This is the start of the rain. The heavens have opened. Days after Saturday's match against the Ospreys, I was still getting the frostbite out of my system.
I collected the young fella from school, lit the fire and had a cup of tea before heading to Blagnac airport to pick up the legendary Denis Hickie. We exchanged stories about his time at the World Cup and my time in France, went back to our house for another cup of tea and finished off the mince pies. Myself, Paula, Denis and his friend Brian O'Hanrahan headed into town for a feed in J'Gos. The lads were well impressed and then we went next door for a quick drink.
I'm mindful of the match against Leeds, so while they've been enjoying some wine and now a few beers, I'm still tasting the local water.
It's still raining cats and dogs, and after a coffee in the Cardinal Café on Place Wilson, myself and Denis went to the markets to meet a good friend, Andre the butcher, to organise a game for an under-16 side from Nenagh.
Andre is the coach of a local under-16 side and the Nenagh boys are coming out for 14 days, about 36 of them, and will come to our game at home to Montauban. Not a bad trip, eh? Beats our trips with Barnhall down to Limerick.
After lunch it's time to part from Denis and meet up with the rest of the Toulouse players. We have a 3.00 captain's team run before heading off to our hotel. I'm sure Denis will have a good time. He plans on taking in the Leinster game at the Frog and Roastbeef, an English bar who brew their own beer.
That night the phone is hopping with regular updates from Denis and Paula, who's watching the game on Sky sports at home. Leinster lose and come through the game with a few knocks. Obviously they'll find it hard to go to Sale and turn the tables but in saying that they'll probably have to.
After breakfast I ring Denis. He thinks he's got food poisoning, but I'm sure there was a bad pint in there somewhere. He tells me that Brian rang home to Dr Jim McShane to get some medication. Denis is staying with him as Brian has a two-bedroom apartment downtown for the eight weeks he's being trained on the Airbus 340 by Gulf Air.
The squad meet up at 12.00 for lunch. The kick-off is at 4.00 and all the talk is that the game might be cancelled but the referee has okayed the pitch. Jean-Baptiste Elissalde gets a terrible slagging. He's not much bigger than Peter Stringer and the boys tell him he'll need armbands because some of the puddles in parts of the pitch are like lakes.
The requests off the bag man are a little different too. Normally it would be shin pads and bicycle shorts. Some of the lads are asking him for life jackets.
We're pretty happy to get a bonus point for scoring four tries in those conditions. Every time you went to ground youn were covered from head to toe in muck. Yet Shane Williams, the Ospreys winger, has a spiked hairstyle and no matter what happened to him every hair was stil standing up by the end of the game. The lads want me to find out what hair gel he uses as they reckon someone should market it.
About ten of us headed out to a nice little fish restaurant that night. Denis was still feeling a bit weasy but he comes to life by the end of the night. I get my fill of wine after missing out the previous night and Denis gets his second wind. We had a nice meal and then later we had breakfast!
We meet up in the morning, although there isn't much to do as it's still raining. We decide to go to the Irish bar, the Melting Pot, to watch the Ulster-Leicester game.
Ulster gave a superb team performance while Leicester look like they've seen the last of their good days, for this season at least. Andy Ward is flying ahnd scores two tries. We were in the 1999 World Cup squad together, since when he's got the axe but he's still good enough to play for Ireland.
He's always been a great ball carrier with very good hands. Realistically though, even if he was doing cartwheels, sommersaults and dropping goals I don't think he'd get back into the Irish squad under the current set-up. He's probably on the wrong side of 30 and Eddie O'Sullivan will probably start building for the next World Cup now.
I was very impressed with Neil Best. He was flying around the place and had a brilliant game, and obviously David Humphreys OBE is on top of his game. It looks like being another battle between himself and Rog for the number 10 jersey this year.
On Saturday night, walking through town, we had got the Munster result aswell but I'd say they're well capable of turning it around. They can't have been helped by the Christmas break and the international camps. We didn't have our French test players at Toulouse after our last game on June 8th, but we've had them every day since they came back from the World Cup, and they'll be with us right up until the Sunday before the Irish game.
After watching Ulster, Brian insists we all sit through the Man United-Newcastle game, though you couldn't really call him a mad football fan as he only watches Man United. A nil-all draw. Enough said. I dropped Denis back to the airport. There was a bit of a panic as we ended up cutting it fine.
We meet up for a recovery session and all the lads are reading the papers and discussing comments by our coach Guy Noves, who has had a good go at Bernard Laporte. Laporte had said that English rugby was the best, that their club structure was better than in France and that they played a better style of rugby.
In disagreeing with all this, Guy Noves criticised Laporte for some of the players he took to the World Cup, such as Xavier Garbajosa and Tony Marsh, who hadn't played much rugby in the previous year. He questioned how Laporte could initially pick Pieter de Villiers, after he had tested positive for cocaine, yet talks about discipline.
He also says that the medical staff at Toulouse had maintained that Xavier Garbajosa wasn't fit to go to the World Cup; that his knee wouldn't stand up to it, yet Laporte still brought him. Last week he had a scope and the doctor advised him that his career was over, but, at 27, 'Garba' still thinks he has a lot to offer. He'll take the rest of this season off and try to come back next season. Anyway, the lads say it will be a war of words between the two coaches from now on.
The recovery session, which is usually a few stretches and sit-ups, takes place on the judo mat in the gym. But it becomes all-out war between the backs and the forwards when about ten of the lads decide to jump on Yannick Bru. When Yannick eventually emerges, he goes for the fire extinguisher and lets it out at the boys.
All the forwards and packs pile in but for once I have to stand aside and watch as I'm still too sore from the weekend to get involved. The session didn't go anywhere after that. Every time fellas sat down on the mat they'd thump the head off each other, so we went for a 30-minute cycle.
We haven't played well this season and I'd be the first to admit that. Although Guy Noves was happy with the bonus point against the Ospreys, at the video session he tore strips off us again. He hammered us for our discipline, as he reckons the reason French clubs have done so badly away from home is because of the yellow and red cards they keep picking up _ Biarritz in Leinster, Agen in Northampton and Stade Francais away to the Gwent Dragons all had red cards.
It's not nice being criticised at the Monday video session but like all good coaches he wants to keep us on our toes. As much as he likes a fighting spirit, as a coach he's no idiot.
Our injury list gets worse. David Gerard broke a bone in his thumb but says he's still hoping to play. Madness. Elissalde has a recurring back problem so Yann Delaigue may come back at ten and Freddie Michalak may go back at nine. Training went very well yesterday though. We'd play for two minutes, then break for one minute. We'd do this 12 times, then take a three minute break. All told, we did this 36 times. 'Je suis mort.'
The emphasis was on keeping the ball off the ground. The coach doesn't want slow ball. He wants us to keep it alive and offload in the tackle. This is the Toulouse style of play.
We'll meet up at 11.00am tomorrow and travel over to Wales for our return game against the Ospreys tomorrow night before having our captain's run. Hopefully we can become the first French side to win away from home in the Heineken Cup this season.
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.