Thursday 17 August 2017

We face biggest test of the season so far after massive result in Paris

Jack O'Donoghue (20) combines with Andrew Conway to tackle Racing 92's Juan Imhoff during last weekend's return to Paris Photo: Sportsfile
Jack O'Donoghue (20) combines with Andrew Conway to tackle Racing 92's Juan Imhoff during last weekend's return to Paris Photo: Sportsfile

Jack O'Donoghue

With so much up for grabs for both teams, we are well tuned in to the challenge that awaits us tomorrow in Scotstoun, but on the back of our latest win we are all happy with our form.

The win against Racing might have looked straightforward to the untrained eye, but we all knew we had to be on our games to get a result in Paris.

I think the emotion of the weekend gave us a sense of fear about the game. It was strange to be going back. To know in the back of your head that the last time we were over there Axel passed away was a daunting enough feeling to have.

It was pretty tough for all of us, but I thought the coaches handled the whole situation really well and guided us through the experience. We got a lot of work done during the week and we were left in no doubt about what our jobs were in Paris for match time.

We all knew we had to go out, perform to the best of our ability and do Axel proud that way. Having a simple plan like that made everything so much easier for us once the first whistle was blown and we got to do our jobs.

Usually when we are on the road as a team there is a bit of messing and laughing between us, but this time everyone had their focused, game face on from the time we took off from Cork.

We had a job to do, everyone's mind was on the game and their roles in that 80 minutes.

Bonus

And you could see that from the kick-off, we were straight into it, we tried to get on the attack straight away, and to come away with the five points is a massive bonus for us.

By the time I got on in the second half, the boys had us well on the front foot after a brilliant first 40 minutes or so. We had a substantial lead in the bag, so it was a nice game for a replacement to come in to.

Being in control of a game and attacking to get the bonus point is always a great way to play. It can be difficult to come on when your side is behind and you have to chase a game.

But any time any of us comes on we don't try and change the run of a game by ourselves. We have to fit into the system, find the game-plan and your place in it. If you can get on the ball and take the load from some of the other lads with your fresh legs, that can make an impact in itself.

I came on as a direct swap for Tommy at No 7. Last year's experience in the position served me well, so it wasn't too unfamiliar to me.

I ended up facing their young back-row Matthieu Voisin a few times, and it was good to take him on again. I have played against him a few times over the years. He is a huge player and is bound to have a great career ahead of him.

Leaving Paris with five points in the bag, there was a real sense of achievement on a job well done. We flew back into Cork on Sunday so we didn't get back to Limerick until 5pm or thereabouts, so it was a long weekend overall. That ate into our preparation time a touch, but at least we are not playing tonight, which means we have our house in order.

With a three-point lead in the pool we are in a good position but it's not exactly an easy task going into another away fixture. Going to Glasgow, we are expecting a real test.

They will be gunning for us, they want to make the knockout stages as well and the best way for them to get there is to beat us tomorrow.

This is a massive challenge for us. The form they are in is impressive. I don't think they have ever been in the knockout stages before so they will be gunning for us. For us, there is so much to play for too - a win could well give us a home quarter-final.

The last time we came up against them in the Pro12 we only narrowly nudged it with Ian Keatley's late drop goal.

They will be fully loaded for this one too though, this will be a totally different game and it will be a real tough encounter.

That day in Scotstoun I played No 8 and it was very much an end-to-end game. It's a high speed pitch and the metres clocked up in that game were a record for the season at that stage. It was tough on the lungs, and any time you go over to a 4G pitch you have to expect a fast game.

We spent some time on a similar surface here in UL this week, but you can be certain they'll run plenty at us. Their back three are lightning quick, and at 10 Finn Russell is a great player too. They have a real go at you, but are well able to take you on up front when they have to.

And we're expecting Scotstoun to lay on a pretty hostile environment for us tomorrow. For a game like this, with so much up for grabs, you have to expect a lively reception. In European rugby the crowd can be the 16th man for you, but we'll be ready for whatever comes our way.

There is a realisation in the camp that this will be our toughest game to date this season. There is so much on the line for both teams. They were the 2015 Pro12 champions and we know exactly how good they can be when they are on their game.

We are all waiting for news on Tommy's injury and it looks like he won't be fit for the weekend.

You never wish ill on your team-mates, but I'm raring to go if I'm needed. I got one Champions Cup start last season and it meant so much to me, but this season I have four appearances as a replacement.

If my chance to start comes I want to show Rassie that I'm comfortable in any of the back-row positions. If I'm called upon I'll be ready for the challenge.

Irish Independent

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