Sunday 20 January 2019

After a long season this week will make or break us, so we must win

We are actually playing some good rugby under Kieran Keane at the moment, we just need to be more clinical and ruthless. Photo: SPORTSFILE
We are actually playing some good rugby under Kieran Keane at the moment, we just need to be more clinical and ruthless. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Denis Buckley - Player Diary

It's a make-or-break week for our season. We've pin-pointed Gloucester in a Challenge Cup quarter-final as a big game for Connacht Rugby.

The international guys are back for us all week in training and we're ready to go for a huge day in the Sportsground tomorrow.

I'm back playing for a few weeks now since my injury but I'm finally feeling myself again. It's good to have three games under my belt now and I feel ready for a big run-in to the season.

I didn't feel I was back to my best or even close to it with the way the travel to Italy and South Africa worked out, which meant I missed a few extra days.

I probably came back a week or two earlier than I could have if I really wanted to have my fitness levels at the very top. I backed myself to play without that extra week or two of running volume.

And they were two tough games against Benetton Rugby and Cheetahs, and I didn't play my best, particularly in the second game of our tour in South Africa.

But against Edinburgh last weekend I felt as fit as ever and my legs were a lot better. Having the break and getting some training in stood to me and I'm back to my best now with a few extra miles on the clock.

I was up against Simon Berghan at the start and WP Nel came on for Edinburgh. They are both good scrummagers, I have scrummaged against both of them before.

Overall as a scrum we had certain tactics for Edinburgh. They probably didn't scrummage as we thought. But we were reasonably comfortable.

We didn't get that much dominance against them but we used our ball well and put their ball under pressure every now and again.

I have scrummaged against John Afoa a good few times. He is one of the best around. He played for Ulster and we played Gloucester a couple of times when he was there.

I scrummaged against him when there was a play-off over there in Kingsholm. He is obviously a top scrummager and we are going to have to be at our very best to try and get after their scrum.

Gloucester are dangerous. They are really good at the unstructured counter-attack rugby.

Like most of the teams in the Premiership they have a very physical pack. You are going to have to sort out their set-piece first and foremost. After that you just have to be really careful in the broken-field play that you don't give them opportunities, your defence is switched on all of the time.

You don't want to get isolated against some of their runners.

They have shown in the Premiership this year they are willing to go from anywhere and they have scored some good tries. It's about controlling them a bit in terms of that.

You want to dictate the tempo. They have got some big forwards so you certainly want to play at a higher tempo and throw it around. That will stand to us. We just need to get our phase play right.

Looking back to Edinburgh, it was a disappointing day but there actually was a lot of good rugby.

You take away two charged down kicks and one other lapse in defence, and we had a really good game.

It's all hypothetical but if you do take out those instances it's a really comfortable win for us and a dominant display against a good Edinburgh team.

With Richard Cockerill in there they are more geared to the Premiership with their style, directness and big physical pack. They have South Africans in there and their play will be similar enough to how Gloucester try to do things.

We stood up to that really well. We dominated a lot of the collisions and played a lot of the rugby. But somehow we managed to lose it. If we can take the positives and cut out the mistakes we can do really well this week.


We threw the ball into touch a few too many times, it gives away possession and opportunities to score.

We are actually playing some really good rugby. We just need to be more clinical and ruthless and not give ball away like we did.

There is still a lot to play for in the league and going to Ospreys is a huge one. But in a little way this is it for us this weekend. We just have to win and there is not much more to it.

We have to find a way but I am confident that we will. The analysis that we have done and preparation, you can tell there is a real focus around the place.

This is a make-or-break game where we have to get a result.

There is a bit of pressure on us, but that pressure is good for us and hopefully it will help us to get a good result.

We have some good signings coming in for next season. You see what Robin Copeland is doing for Munster now, he has got three man of the match awards recently, so he will be a great addition.

Then we have the re-signings for next season too. It all adds to it in a big couple of weeks for Connacht Rugby.

Irish Independent

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