Wednesday 26 October 2016

Player diary: We can't wait to show new coaches what a lively Thomond Park is like

Jack O'Donoghue

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30

The reception hall of Munster’s new High Perfromance Centre in UL. SPORTSFILE
The reception hall of Munster’s new High Perfromance Centre in UL. SPORTSFILE

We're all pretty excited by our first game of the season at Thomond Park tomorrow, and on the back of last week's win in Wales confidence is high.

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From my own point of view I had a positional switch from No 8 to No 7 last weekend, but it wasn't a major change for me really.

It was a strange game all in all: we had a lot of opportunities but we weren't clinical enough. We were a bit lucky to come away with the win, but I think we deserved it.

I had gone off by then, but the lads that were on the pitch at the end showed a lot of guts and heart to keep the Dragons out. Last year maybe that game could have gone the other way, so that's a real step in the right direction.

That's a real boost for us as a squad ahead of Edinburgh in Limerick tomorrow.

I was happy enough with how I played. A big thing is that you try to make those tackles as dominant as possible. I felt I had one or two soft tackles, but by and large I was pleased with how I went.

As a back-row, especially a No 7, you have to have a tackle rate in the high teens. Your work-rate and hunger to make those defensive hits has to be right up there.


Jacques Nienaber has brought that real hunger this season. And he really drives that ambition for all of us to perform well in defence.

A central guy to that system so far has been Billy Holland, and he already has 53 tackles from his three games. He's playing very well at the moment.

Jean Kleyn came in for his first start, and he made a great impact - especially in defence. I saw a few really dominant hits from him, he drove a few lads well back. And then his first try on his first start was a dream for him.

I remember my own debut back in Cardiff: it's special to play well in your first day and to take the win too is doubly satisfying.

In the front-row John Ryan was a deserving winner of man of the match: you saw that the set-piece, which helped him grow into the game.

He carried very well, he defended very strongly and he is going well in the scrum too. It just proves that a lot of hard work pays off. I'm delighted for him.

All in all, we are creating chances but we have to be a lot more clinical. But still there were plenty of positives there.

After we got back from Wales we were all back in on Monday morning at the high performance centre. Monday was a light enough session. We did some 'org' walk-throughs, to have a look at some of our lineouts and plays that maybe didn't go as smoothly as we'd have liked against Dragons.

It was all low-paced to try and iron out the issues, in time to let us run through them at full pace on Tuesday, which went well.

This season things are pretty different in how we review games. First thing in the mornings we all have an allocated time that we can sit down with the coaches and do some one-on-one work.

They might have seen things that they want to pass on to you from training or the games, or you might want to quiz the coaches on certain aspects of the game. So it's great to be able to make your way around to each coach and to have that clarity.

It is a good chance to chat to the coaches about something you might have got pinged by a referee for, but you thought was legal.

We always had the chance to go and speak with the coaches on a one-on-one basis, but having it officially in the calendar makes it a lot easier. Having everyone in the same building really helps that sort of work too.

After those one-on-ones we split into forwards and back reviews. This week we went through our lineout, scrum and mauls from the weekend in Dragons.

After lunch we had the full team review. By the time you get to the team review we all know what we could have done better, but it's important to run through it all as a unit as well.

Our last home game didn't really go to plan, but now we have another chance to put that right. It's our first game of the season in Thomond Park and this is a good Edinburgh side that will bring a real physical game to us.

We know how they like to play: they'll carry the ball strongly, so we are in for a tough test as a forward unit. If we can win those collisions and give our back three a good platform, you'd expect that we can take the win.

As we saw against Leinster, Hamish Watson is always a nuisance around the breakdown and we'll have to watch out for him or whoever plays at No 7 for them. If you see him sniffing around a breakdown, you have to clear him out of there as soon as possible.

Over the years we have a pretty good record against Edinburgh, but we all remember a couple of seasons ago when they beat us in Thomond Park on the first day of the season.

They have a few good signings there now too.

Rory Scholes has joined them from Ulster, a guy I played with at Ireland U-20s. They have plenty of threats out wide but they are well able to mix it with the pack as well.

Hopefully we can get a good crowd out to the game tomorrow. A Saturday afternoon kick-off in Limerick is always great, and it would be great to show Rassie and Jacques what a lively Thomond Park is like.

And it has been a positive start to the season for us. The one-point loss to Cardiff was tough, but we've played well to win twice on the road at two difficult venues.

But all of that would be topped if we could pick up a win tomorrow and start off a run at home to be proud of.

Irish Independent

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