Here I am, nine weeks since the last column and a lot has happened since then. I’m just back from a cycle with my son Dan, who’s on two weeks’ holidays, down to the village to pick up the crossants and milk. So, with a coffee in one hand and with power rangers blasting away in the background….

The weekend after we secured our place in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup we had a good 35-9 win over Montpellier at home, when Nivard Whelan and some friends of Puala’s who had worked with the Simon Community were over that weekend.


One of them was a great character called Joe, who stopped to talk with every homeless person he met in Toulouse and by God there’s a lot of them. We had to drag him into any bar or restaurant as he was always lagging behind.


He had some French, which he attributed to his time picking grapes as a 19 or 20-year-old in France and sleeping uncomfortably on park benches and in caves, which he maintains he did. The best way I could describe him, in appearance, is to the lead singer in Zee Zee Top, with a big heart to go with it.


February 27th. On the team bus en route to Beziers for a championship game (which we lost by a point), I decided to check my messages and I was stunned to hear the voice of Joan Breslin from the IRFU. “Eddie wants you over for a training session on Sunday.”


To be honest I was in a bit of a shock for a while. I hadn’t been involved for over two years. On the Sunday I was in McDonalds for a birthday party with a gang of Dan’s friends thinking: ‘that plane to Ireland can’t come quick enough.’ When I arrived at the City West the first person I ran into was Shaggy (Shane Horgan). It was a funny feeling being back in an Irish training camp.


He showed me around the hotel, where the team room was, and introduced me to ‘Mocky’ Regan, the new physio. I bumped into Brian O’Brien, a real father figure to all the squad, and Niall O’Donovan.


Anyone who’s been in the City West will know that to get to your room you need a two-day camel ride and there were plenty more ‘bonjours’ and ‘comment ca vas?’ before I found my room. Being out of the loop in France, it was great to catch up with the lads again that night.


For the first day of training on the Monday, I decided to get up early for breakfast. I went into the breakfast room and one of the waiters pointed me to a corner of the room with a few tables. All of them were empty except for one with Eddie, Declan (kidney), Niallo (O’Donovan), Liam Hennessy _ basically all the management staff.


Did I get the time right? Where are all the lads? But, to be sociable I ramble over, sit down, pour myself a cup of coffee and order a bowl of porridge. Eddie asks me how France is going and we have a good chat. After about five minutes I’m still waiting for my porridge when Mervyn Murphy, the video analyst, says: ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’


The good news is that while it’s great to see me, the bad news is that I’m interrupting a management meeting. I’m in the wrong room. I tell the lads when I find them. Good old Trevor, eh, busting into a management meeting on his first morning.


Training went well, and a lot of work is done on defence. I was very impressed with the amount of video analysis done by Mervyn Murphy. England played exactly as we were told they’d play, pushing up tight off rucks and setpieces close in, but defending softly out wide, and if Ireland could get the ball out wide they’d do damage.


There had been a good feeling from the word go. On Tuesday, when we did line-outs, Niall O’Donovan came up to me with a ten-page folder, and these were A4 pages, of all the line-out options. I was looking over my left and right shoulder, expecting Jeremy Beadle to come out of the bushes with a hidden camera.


‘What’s this Niallo, are you taking the piss?’ There must have been 140 line-out options, even though you might only use ten in a match. That part of the preparation has come a long way!


I nearly made the game too. Vic picked up an ankle injury in training and Eddie said I was to stay on for another day as cover. Vic was okay though, and so when I went to the airport with the rest of the lads, they went through the departure gates for London and I went to Toulouse, to watch the game in the Killarney pub.


For the weekend of March 13th, when we had Montauban at home, there were 40 young fellas over from Nenagh for a two-match tour I helped organise as well as the Barnhall fourths, who were having their ‘wild geese tour’. Paula voluntarily went home with the kids as she knew she wouldn’t be seeing much of me anyway.


On the Thursday night we all met up in the Killarney where we had a great night. On behalf of ‘the wild geese’ Jarlath Daly, who makes bronze sculptures for the All-Star awards amongst other things, presented me with a bronze sculpture of five geese flying over a rugby ball.


Jarlath is a past president of Barnhall, and was one of the group’s ‘prawn sandwich’ brigade, along with Paul Kelly and Tom Halpin. They did the trek to Lourdes and all the sight-seeing, really making the most of their four days here. Good lads, but they just don’t have the pace or the stamina for it any more.


The following weekend Toulouse had no championship match or friendly, so we drove down to Barcelona for a couple of days. I tried to find a hotel with the Ireland-Italy game but eventually found an Irish bar where they had it on.


I’d seen plenty of Irish bars when there twice before, on a tour with Barnhall and for Reggie Corrigan’s stag, so I’d never really seen the sights. Barcelona is a fantastic city, highly recommended. On the way way back we stopped off in Perpignan and had dinner with Mick O’Driscoll. Only four games back from a cruciate ligament injury, he did his shoulder and will be out for another three months.


I watched Ireland’s Triple Crown match against Scotland in Paris in a Bodega Bar. Didier Lacroix, a former French international who played with Toulouse and now runs a promotions’ company, invited me along to a corporate lunch.


I spoke to Vic and Denis and a few other people after the game and it seemed a pretty safe bet that Dublin was going to go mad for the night. Seeing Frrance beat England that night was the first time I ever went to a test match not involving Ireland.


Later I hooked up with William Servat and the rest of the French players in some nite club for a sing-song. I remember singing The Wild Rover with Bernard Laporte on one arm and Fabien Pelous on the other. It was a great laugh. The next day I missed my flight and had to pay for a new one, but it was worth it.


We beat Narbonne last week when our internationals came off the bench but Michalak wasn’t on the pitch a minute when he went over on his ankle. Dragos Dima was stretchered off too and our winger Vincent Clerc finished the game at scrum-half.


With the Edinburgh quarter-final coming up on Saturday, this is a big problem for us as we don’t have a lot of strength in depth at half-back. At least we have Yann Delaigue to play at outhalf, while Sylvain Dupuy, who plays with our Espoir (reserve) team, is our only other specialist scrumhalf.


Our quarter-final has been a sell-out for two weeks and everybody expects us to win, because we beat them 33-0 the last time, but it’s going to be tougher than the pool match. Looking at the video of that match again they missed a few penalties and created a few try-scoring chances. Those kind of things can change a game.


Stade Francais had a good win over Pau last weekend but they’re still fighting relegation and even the newspapers over here are giving them no chance at Thomond Park because Munster have never lost a European tie there. Stade’s season was ruined by the World Cup, when they had 12 call-ups to various international teams.


They haven’t been playing well and I can’t see them beating Munster but as they showed in Welford Road, they have the players to rise to the occasion.


Like us, Munster will have to be on their guard.