Wednesday 7 December 2016

It's best the attack in Pro12 against the best defence - and we can't wait

Tiernan O'Halloran

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

Tiernan O'Halloran scores a try against Munster earlier this season – and he will be hoping for similar success against Leinster tomorrow (SPORTSFILE)
Tiernan O'Halloran scores a try against Munster earlier this season – and he will be hoping for similar success against Leinster tomorrow (SPORTSFILE)

We are all really looking forward to this one. It's massive inter-pro derby at the Sportsground tomorrow. We know Leinster are going to come here all guns blazing, but we believe we have the tools to beat them.

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In terms of what's at stake, this is big. It's first versus second in the month of March. We have never been involved in that type of game. You can see on social media, people are really looking forward to it. The Six Nations is over and everyone is back focused on club rugby again. It's an exciting time.

You can feel it around here at the Sportsground. Everyone is buzzing and ready to go. You need to enjoy it, but we know we are in the best position and it's up to us to perform and stay there.

We've had a bit of time off away from the pitch recently; training was on-going but it was nice to refresh the mind ahead of a big run-in.

We had our training week in Westport last week, and the focus was on Leinster for a couple of days - what they will throw at us. We were looking at their defence: it's the best attack in the league against the best defence in the league.

Tough

It's going to be interesting. They are definitely very tough to break down. We have looked at a few places where we can get some joy, but we are expecting a tough game.

Then when we came back to Galway, for our Thursday and Friday training sessions, we were more focused on ourselves. We did a review of Leinster's game against Glasgow on Monday. We got to see some new things, and throughout the week we have just built on our own game.

When you are going well - we have won five in a row - it's good to just keep going and you can build up so much momentum naturally. It's tough when you get a two-week break at that stage.

But it whets the appetite even more. You have more time to enjoy where you are in the league and think about what's ahead.

There is a lot of competition in training. Everyone wants to be involved in these games. It's good to have that bite in training and it's building nicely to what's going to be a big crowd in the Sportsground.

It wasn't the ideal time to get the break but you need to take the positives from it.

As a rugby player you want to test yourself against the best players and you hope Leinster will bring down all of their internationals for this game. If you get that scalp then there are no excuses.

Hopefully it will be a great encounter if both teams have full squads to pick from.

There are still a few doubters out there when it comes to what we can achieve. I've seen some comments throughout the year, and people are expecting us to fall.

This is another opportunity for us to prove that, at this stage of the season, we belong where we are. We are feeding off that, we are feeding off people saying that the internationals are coming back and Connacht are going to get passed out.

Everybody loves people talking you down. It inspires the lads here to do better. We are looking forward to it, it is exciting. We have our Challenge Cup quarter-final coming up as well, so there are some huge games to look forward to in both competitions. It's a position that no-one here has been in with Connacht. So it's great for everyone on and off the pitch, the staff upstairs, everyone has bought into it.

Confidence is high. But there is no danger of that turning into cockiness - we know we have a huge amount of work to do yet.

But there is a lot of confidence in the squad, everybody trusts in what Pat Lam is doing and the position he has us in. The game-plan, everyone has bought into it, it's been a long process and it's something that has been building for a couple of years now.

Everyone is happy and can play with confidence when they know their role inside out.

The last couple of games as well, our defence is starting to get better and we have shored up a few things we needed to do, in terms of exits. The squad is in a good place and everyone is pushing everyone else.

But Leinster will be tough. They have shown that they can score tries from anywhere on the pitch. And whether it's Ian Madigan or Johnny Sexton, they have talented kickers too.

If you look at the league, and tries conceded, their defence stands out compared to everyone else. That's the reason they are up towards the top of the table. Whereas we have scored a lot of tries, but our defence has leaked a good few scores as well.

At this stage it's hard to know what the weather is going to be like, but it would be nice to get conditions where we could throw the ball around. With Leinster it's not just about their defence, they have class all over the pitch - whether internationals or not, they have talent.

But we are at home, where we've only lost once this season, and it's going to be the biggest crowd of the year.

These are the games I've dreamed of playing in since I was a child going up to the Sportsground with my dad. I can't wait.

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