Sunday 23 July 2017

Injuries and errors cost us but we expect to win

Caolin Blade
Caolin Blade

Conor McPhillips

After the last two games and losses against Ulster and Munster, we weren't happy as a team, as a backs unit or as individuals.

Our turnovers and our mistakes were simply too high.

We don't feel we're functioning to the standards we set for ourselves as a backline so we have identified these areas and looking for a big improvement this weekend.

We had 24 team turnovers in play at the weekend and 19 of them came directly from the backs so it was a very tough review at the start of the week. There were certainly some harsh learnings for individuals there.

While we're all in this together, the backs are also a team within the team and we are responsible for certain aspects of the game like our phase attack.

That area didn't function the last day due to our poor shape and poor option-taking.

We identified that as a group and it was a massive work-on for the week. That work is done on the pitch or through visualisation and classroom work. Connections between mini units like the centres, half-backs, and the back three is also really important. So we're all working as a group but we're also working hard as mini units within the group.

We're missing front-line players but as always the Connacht way means that we expect the next player to come in and do the job that's expected of him.

Obviously some guys have played fewer games than others but we don't see that as an excuse, we just see it as a challenge for them to get to the next level and that's how the players want it as well.

CLARITY

After our review on Tuesday morning, we had a good clarity session out on the astro pitch where we walked through both our attack and defence. We also covered off the Ospreys in terms of where we see their threats and identified the space we want to attack tomorrow.

That afternoon was our big defence session where we take care of the fundamentals - our breakdown, our ball carry, our tackler plus one. These are all basics in the game but something you have to continue to work really hard on.

We see Ospreys as one of the best attacking teams in the competition so we've had to identify their set-piece and phase attack and adjust our defence accordingly to try to nullify their threats.

We were pretty low in numbers in Tuesday's session so I actually had to run at 10 myself for the opposition.

A pretty unusual situation to have a former scrum-half running against our current scrum-half Caolin Blade in the out-half position but it was enjoyable enough and gave everyone a bit of a laugh after a tough session.

Last season we did the double on Ospreys which was huge for us, especially winning at Liberty Stadium for the first time - I think that was a big turning point in our season. Obviously Ospreys were disappointed with the way they finished last season especially not making the Champions Cup.

Not only did they recruit really well over the summer with even more internationals coming into their squad, they also seemed to change their way of playing the game under their coaches Steve Tandy, Gruff Rees and Chris Gibbs.

They have really strong set-piece attack and can launch with a strong maul or a very strong launch with their backs. They can attack you tight or wide in phase play with quality individuals including two 10s in Dan Biggar and Sam Davies who can also play at 15.

Externally, expectation for us going over there may be low considering the tough task ahead, our injury profile and our recent form. But for us, we expect to go over then and compete for a win.

We know we can get better as a group and that is what we've been working on. We need to cut out errors and get our game right to give us the chance of some points before we switch into Europe.

Irish Independent

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