Friday 20 April 2018

Conor McPhillips: Hurricanes watching brief blew me away

Beauden Barrett Picture: Sportsfile
Beauden Barrett Picture: Sportsfile

Conor McPhillips

We are disappointed with the way the Leinster game worked out, but we know it was all of our own doing.

The best thing about the Pro12 is there is always a game around the corner and we look forward to putting things right against Dragons.

The over-riding feeling was frustration. We felt we left a bit out there. We had 24 turnovers, which is probably double what we have had in the last couple of weeks.

We had a purple patch in the first 20 minutes, when we played some of the best rugby we have played this season. But we didn't convert the scoring opportunities from the possession we had, and that cost us.


Even at 6-0 we were comfortable and we thought we would kick on. And then when they got the yellow card, that rallied Leinster a little bit - they did well when Sean O'Brien was off the field.

And when Peter Robb got sin-binned for us they got on top a little bit.

But even at half-time we were confident that we were going to stick to our plan and play our game.

But sadly a couple of handling errors and some poor decision-making cost us. We had a few issues with our shape as well and all of that together meant that we were under pressure and we couldn't come back from that.

It's important that you get the fundamentals right before you can think about the finishing touches, and that is what we have focused on all week ahead of Dragons tonight.

If you are loose on defence and you fail to win the contest at the breakdown, it's going to be a long night and that's the same for every away game, especially in Rodney Parade.

We have had some success there recently but it has never come easy. Even when we scored four tries in some of those victories, the game was still in the balance until late on, and we know it will be another hard 80 minutes.

Regarding their stadium, Dragons probably look at it in a similar way that we look on the Sportsground. It's not a massive ground and it has that shed-like feeling to it where there is a good bit of noise. But it is soccer pitch too, so the surface is good and it lets you play an exciting brand of rugby if necessary. The players relish these sort of games.

In the international sphere, all eyes will be on Chicago and Soldier Field, where Ireland clash with New Zealand.

Having spent some time over in New Zealand this summer observing both the Hurricanes and Crusaders, I had the chance to interact with All Blacks such as Dane Coles, Julian and Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett (pictured), TJ Perenara and Cory Jane, and experience the way they operate ahead of my new role as Connacht backs coach.

Pat Lam and Willie Ruane were keen for me to see the Super Rugby side of things, prior to my integration into the bigger role in Connacht and it was an eye-opening experience for me at the two New Zealand dynasties.

I went into the Hurricanes camp from a Monday all the way through to the following Sunday, and I got to see their whole training week: team meetings, planning and preparation.

I was lucky to be able to sit in the coaches' box with them on the Saturday, which was very interesting.

After that I went and spent some time with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

There is not a massive difference in the training techniques or how they go about the game from what we do, but what I found most interesting was observing the different relationships between the coaches themselves and the different dynamics with players.

Just being in meetings and seeing who takes the lead and what they talk about was fascinating.

In New Zealand they give you lots of access and they share a lot of ideas with you, and it was nice to experience the different cultures - it was just a bonus that the Hurricanes ended up winning the Super Rugby title.

I'm looking forward to seeing a few of those guys out against Ireland this weekend, and there's no doubt New Zealand are the in-form side coming into this game.

I believe Ireland will run the All Blacks close but they will need to perform to their potential and stick to their game-plan. This will put them in the position to create history.

Irish Independent

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