Monday 22 January 2018

Conor McPhillips: Big test for the squad after tough turnaround

John Muldoon and his team-mates will be looking to bounce back after last weekend’s disappointing performance Picture: Sportsfile
John Muldoon and his team-mates will be looking to bounce back after last weekend’s disappointing performance Picture: Sportsfile

Conor McPhillips

While it was obviously not the result we were looking for in Italy last weekend, we are straight back into action tonight against Edinburgh in Myreside after a quick turnaround.

We had a good week of training in preparation for Zebre last week and then had a couple of late withdrawals, which has happened to us before, but we have dealt with it.

Having been to Zebre on numerous occasions previously and done the job, we travelled over to Parma confident that we would get a result after the week's work we had done, but it just didn't go our way.

We dominated possession and territory and must have had nearly 15 opportunities to score but only took three.

Zebre, on the other hand, had four opportunities and scored three tries - largely due to our mistakes, but we give full credit to them.

They were on the ball and took their opportunities so they were deserved winners. You could see they were really fighting for that victory.

The crucial moment, their third try, was almost a 14-point swing as we had a maul in the corner against their 14 men but they turned it over and went 80 metres to score. That gave them a massive boost in moral.

After arriving back from Italy last Sunday and travelling to Edinburgh yesterday, we had to adjust our schedule for the shortened week.


We reviewed Zebre on Monday and immediately parked that and took the learnings into preparing for Edinburgh. As a coaching team, we had our work done on them already and had a game-plan prepared as always.

We went through their European Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Top 14 leaders La Rochelle last weekend to confirm everything we had seen previously.

The players had a down day on Tuesday which mainly consisted of physio and massage and a lot of analysis and study on the opposition for the weekend. Some players also did individual skills sessions just to sharpen the focus.

Then Wednesday was all about team and unit clarity as well as covering off our team defence and attack sessions - we like to do at least two on-pitch sessions a week but we had to do a single hybrid session of attack and defence due to the short turnaround.

There was a lot of mental preparation and homework for the players so that everyone is clear in their roles, clear in what Edinburgh are going to do, and clear in how we are going to nullify their threats.

We have dealt with six-day turnarounds before. To have a six-day turnaround and then be away again, especially coming back from Italy, is tough.

It's always a physical game in Italy and you miss out on a day's recovery due to the trip back to Ireland and then you have to travel again.

Edinburgh will obviously be disappointed with their defeat to La Rochelle in Murrayfield so they will be looking for a backlash.

They are sprinkled with Scottish internationals who had a fairly successful Six Nations and they are always a tough proposition, especially up front. They have a strong set-piece and play a physical, attritional game so we are in no doubt that we're in for a tough battle and we will have to be prepared for that.

We would like to be playing them at Murrayfield as it has been a happy hunting ground for us having beaten Leinster there in last year's Pro12 final and also winning against Edinburgh there last season.

We really want to turn our away form around and we are searching for that win, hopefully we will be able to get it in Myreside.

Our squad was a bit depleted last week after losing a few players to niggles in training, along with the fact that Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O'Halloran were both on a well-deserved rest week.

They are two of our key performers - they are both Ireland internationals and are fresh back from a break so that's exciting for us. Both of those guys had a big load over the last two months and it has been noticeable this week how mentally and physically refreshed they are.

They were really driving the standards so it was great to have them back training and available for selection tonight.

Irish Independent

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