Sunday 24 September 2017

Down-time has given us pep in step for key week

Everyone in Connacht is delighted to see Kieran Marmion get his chance at scrum-half for the game against England Picture: Sportsfile
Everyone in Connacht is delighted to see Kieran Marmion get his chance at scrum-half for the game against England Picture: Sportsfile

Conor McPhillips

After that last block of four games it was great to get a bit of downtime away from the Sportsground last week.

It can be a very intense environment in terms of the training standards, the level of detail and the amount of time we spend with each other, including travel. So to get away from the daily routine for a few days and spend some time with family is always a good idea.

It gives the players - and the management team - a chance to come back in refreshed and focused, which is what we really noticed on Monday morning.

The players would have continued their own physical training in their own time last week but they came back in really determined to get stuck in to the rugby side of things.

With no game at the weekend, this week was all about our preparation for Glasgow and another really important block of four matches.

Glasgow up first is crucial for us. We are playing the team just above us in the table and a win would give us huge confidence and momentum going into the next few games.

We were very disappointed with our performance against Glasgow at home in round 1 of the Pro12 and will want to make up for that next weekend.

It's always a challenge going over to Scotstoun Stadium - somewhere we've never won - but we will take confidence from our win over Cardiff at Arms Park last month. We played some good rugby on a synthetic pitch and came from behind to seal an important victory.

Confidence

With the majority of the Glasgow starting team involved in a successful Six Nations campaign for Scotland, there will be no shortage of confidence on their side either.

So we will need to be at our best and that is what this week is all about. We spent a lot of time working on our game and making subtle tweaks.

It is such a long season and you play every side twice, so you need to be constantly adapting and developing your game plan because, naturally, you don't want to become too predictable to the opposition.

The quality of our training sessions have, without a doubt, improved over the last number of weeks with so many guys coming back from injury and available to train.

In my backs sessions, we had Matt Healy, Eoin Griffin, Marnitz Boshoff, Darragh Leader and Josh Rowland all back in this week, which is a big boost. Not all of them will get their opportunity against Glasgow but they are pushing each other hard and we should see them feature in the coming weeks.

After Glasgow, we have our rescheduled game with Zebre in Italy and then Edinburgh over in Scotland so that's three away games on the bounce, which can be a challenge.

But team manager Tim Allnutt will have all the logistics sorted and we'll just have to adapt to the short turnaround between Zebre and Edinburgh like we have done before. Hopefully we'll have a large squad to pick from to make things easier.

With no game this weekend, I'm sure a lot of us will end up watching the Six Nations including the Ireland v England game tomorrow. It's disappointing for Ireland that there isn't more to play for in this game except for a top-half finish.

Having said that, I believe England will have good reason to be a little bit worried. Ireland are due a big backlash performance after the disappointment of the Wales game. While there is a lot at stake for Eddie Jones' team, including a Grand Slam and a record winning run, there isn't a lot of pressure on Ireland and they could really spoil the party in Dublin tomorrow.

I'm delighted that Kieran Marmion is getting a start, although we are all sad to see Conor Murray ruled out through injury.

I thought Kieran had a fantastic game in Cardiff last week when he came on for Murray. He really raised the tempo of the game, and his passing was impressive.

While it's just what we see him do week in, week out for us, he'll take a lot of confidence from the amount of game-time he got last weekend.

Hopefully he can produce more of the same tomorrow. He's a brilliant player who is constantly looking to improve and I'd love to see him do well.

Irish Independent

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