Monday 26 September 2016

Serious test awaits as we prepare to face leaders

Anthony Foley

Published 27/11/2015 | 02:30

Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino made his first start in a red shirt in the B&I Cup last weekend
Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino made his first start in a red shirt in the B&I Cup last weekend

The cancellation of last weekend's Champions Cup fixture with Stade Francais has thrown up an interesting fixtures dilemma for us, but it also afforded us the chance to rest up a few weary bodies in preparation for tomorrow's meeting with Connacht at Thomond Park.

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It will be interesting to see how the games are scheduled down the line. It is something that I have very little to do with - we're leaving that decision up to the EPCR and senior officials from both clubs - but I'm sure they will come to a sensible solution.

I don't think midweek games are the answer - it probably wouldn't be fair on any of the teams that have their games to play - so I'm not sure what agreement will be reached. It's a waiting game for everyone involved.

Even last week when we heard the game was called off, it was all a bit of a surprise. I knew there was bound to be concerns about the game going ahead considering all the atrocities that took place in Paris, but it was my job and that of the management team to have the boys ready and to assume the game was going to go ahead.

Once word filtered through to us that the match was postponed we quickly switched focus to Connacht.

But those few days we spent preparing for the Stade Francais game won't have gone to loss. We'll bank that work and it will make for easy revision whenever we are pencilled in to play them in the coming weeks or months.

Surgery

A couple of the lads, Peter O'Mahony and Duncan Casey, had surgery on their injuries this week and we wish them all the best in their recovery. It will be a tough few months for them, but I'm sure we'll see them back as strong as ever before too long.

If we had known that we would have no game last weekend we could have come up with a different schedule for training, but the first thing we did was to switch our the Friday group session in Cork to Thursday instead. That gave us the chance to let the lads off for a couple of days at the weekend.

But not all of them got the chance to relax and put up the feet. The B&I Cup team were pretty busy down in Kinsale and they did well to come away with the win from a tough game against Yorkshire Carnegie.

We saw a few lads get game time on their way back from injury, while Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino made his first start in the red shirt, which was great to see.

Fair play to Kinsale RFC too for the welcome they rolled out for all of us. It's great to see our representative games being played in the smaller provincial venues.

It's plain to see that these occasions mean so much to the clubs and it's a real pleasure to go to places like Tralee, Waterford and Clonmel for these nights.

Before the lads knocked off for the weekend we got a couple of good days' preparation lodged for the Connacht game tomorrow.

We played them in a pre-season game at Thomond Park and they certainly had the upper hand that day, and we remember the challenge they gave us up at the Sportsground back in January too.

Pat Lam has a quality side there and we know we face a massive challenge at Thomond.

As league leaders they will be keen to stay in that position, and they'll want to show that their recent success has not been just about benefiting from other squads having players away at the World Cup.

Connacht they have played some excellent rugby this season. They have scored some brilliant tries through the backs, but they are well able to mix it up front and get the ugly scores too.

The fact that the game is at Thomond Park is pretty important for us too. We haven't lost there since last December and that is a record we are proud of and want to expand and protect.

But we know it's going to be very tough. The physical stakes will be through the roof for this game - any time I ever faced Connacht as a player you were always guaranteed that as a minimum.

They won't have the slightest problem with grinding out a 3-0 or a 6-3 win.

But we're the same. A win is all that matters here. A performance would be great, and a convincing display with a win would be ideal, but we'd take a one-point victory right now.

Irish Independent

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