Leinster's Fergus McFadden is focused on leaving a frustrating campaign to date behind him when the eastern province welcome Toyota Cheetahs to the RDS this Saturday in the Guinness Pro14 (kick-off 2.30pm).
Due to a mixture of injury and the impressive form of others, the Kildare man has featured just four times for Leinster this season. His last appearance for Leo Cullen's side was a January 4th league success over Connacht.
“I wasn’t picked for the European matches [against Lyon and Benetton]. The strength in depth in every position, and particularly the back three, is very deep. I’m just hoping to get an opportunity now this week and during this window to try and put my hand up,” McFadden said from Leinster’s training base in UCD on Monday.
“Staying fit is half the battle really. I got injured at the start of the season, at a point where other guys got their opportunities. The injury side of things is the most frustrating side of professional sport and rugby. Because a week in this game is a long time. When you’re injured for a couple of months, you feel kind of excommunicated from the group.
“You don’t feel like you’re adding anything in terms of results on the field. For me hopefully I can just, touch wood, stay fit for as long as possible. Keep playing well and training well.”
Whereas McFadden and the rest of the Leinster squad – excluding those on international duty – had a rest period following the completion of their Champions Cup pool, their opponents at the weekend have not been idle.
Courtesy of back-to-back victories against fellow South African outfit Southern Kings, the Cheetahs are now up to third in the Conference A table.
Broken field turnovers
While Leinster are expected to extend their winning run to 17 games for the season, McFadden is adamant they can't take the Bloemfontein men for granted.
“They’re very, very dangerous off any broken field turnovers or loose kicks. We’re very aware of that. At the end of the day, they don’t lose players like we lose players during this period. They’ll be very strong coming over here and be looking to get a result.
“In saying that, the group that is here is excited about the challenge. We haven’t played in a few weeks now, but we had a good rugby week under our belts last week and the guys that are picked will be looking to keep the winning run we’re on going.”
Although he hasn't featured in an Ireland shirt for close to two years – he was part of the Grand Slam-winning group in 2018 – the 33-year-old has been keeping a close eye on the squad's progress under new head coach Andy Farrell.
On the heels of what he deemed to be an overly harsh reaction to the opening triumph over Scotland, McFadden felt Ireland delivered a big statement in last weekend’s bonus point win at Wales’ expense.
“I thought that was one of the best Test matches I’ve seen Scotland play in a long, long time. They really put it up to Ireland in the first 40. They [Ireland] showed great character to keep them out a few times, particularly at the end of the game. Then they kicked on against Wales, who are after winning the Grand Slam last year.
“That was a great result, really. The lads have done very well and I’m just excited to see the likes of Ronan [Kelleher] and Max [Deegan] get their first caps. Those guys getting rewarded for the hard work they’ve put in at the start of the season.”