Sunday 19 November 2017

Good displays for the province can clinch place on Irish summer tour

Pat Lam gears up for the Pro12’s return against Glasgow tomorrow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Pat Lam gears up for the Pro12’s return against Glasgow tomorrow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

PLAYER DIARY: Tiernan O’Halloran

I didn't get to play for Ireland in the last few weeks but it was nice to be up in camp and to experience the latter end of the Six Nations.

Joe Schmidt gave me a heads up early last week to be ready to play against England because Jared Payne was carrying a knock. It was important to be switched on in case he got injured at the last minute. He got through the game and did well but it was still great to be up there.

It's definitely a game that everyone gets up for. You can see that in the meetings before the game. Everyone is pumped up against England. There was so much on the line. Obviously the championship was already sorted out, but there were world rankings on the line, and England were going for that world record and a Grand Slam. You don't want them to get that in Dublin.

There was a big focus to put up a strong performance, and you could see the way lads fronted up. That victory meant a lot to the team, and it always does when you play against England in the Six Nations.

Moment

There are a lot of players coming through at the moment, Joe has given lads experience and new caps throughout over the last six or nine months. That will only hold you in good stead, and give you experience going back to the provinces, where the other provincial players can benefit from playing with you then.

It is a goal to be involved again in the summer tour, after being away in South Africa last year. It will be another tough tour, but it would be great to get there. With Connacht, we have six games left in the current season now and it's just important to get a few consistent performances and put my hand up for selection again with Ireland at the end of that.

I was back in the Sportsground on Monday and I met with Pat Lam and the other coaches to go through a few different things that we have tweaked while I was away. It's just about getting the Connacht mindset sorted now, and I had a bit of homework to do during the week.

There is a real positive feeling around the place. And there are lots of important games coming up. We are away from home for three weeks in a row in the Pro12, but they are games we have to be targeting because we want to be finishing in the top six at the bare minimum.

But it's all on a game-by-game basis at the moment. We are all focused on going over to Glasgow tomorrow and hopefully picking up a win there. They are in the top six but they need a win as well to climb back up the table, so it's important for both teams.

There is no chance in us giving up if we don't win this week - we have to keep plugging away. But we are focused on taking care of this game first. This game is on the 4G surface and that's something which suits our style of rugby. Hopefully we can get a dry day for a good game.

The backs are pretty happy with a quicker surface like that. Injury-wise there is more of a chance you'll pick up a few niggles on that but it makes for a good, quick game so you have to enjoy it.

Personally, I hurt my knee a good few years back playing at U-20 level up in UCD on one of those pitches. But the way the technology is now, the Glasgow pitch is new and it's a lot better than some of the other ones you play on. They are getting more and more advanced and they are so similar to grass pitches.

Glasgow might be missing a few of their international players which is a bonus for us. But it is coming to crunch time in the season and every team is looking to win every game at this stage.

The thing about Glasgow as well, is that they have so many internationals in their squad that they will still be able to put together a formidable selection no matter who is out missing.

Glasgow have always played a good off-loading game. The lads that come in always have lots of pace and they have some big ball-carriers. It's going to be a tough game for us, but we have a lot of lads back from injury now and we are close to a clean bill of health.

That will help us going forward, because for a few months there Pat was struggling to get numbers out on the pitch for training. There is so much competition here right now so it was nice to have the week we had.

Our strong finish to last season ties in with the grounds firming up as well as the weather getting better.

It's an exciting time of year. With the pressure of getting into next season's Champions Cup it gives us something to fight for at the end of this term, and there is an added dynamic with lads looking to put their hands up for the summer tour with Ireland.

Everyone is looking to put in the performance so hopefully we can finish strong and climb into the top five or six.

The goal is to be playing top-tier rugby in Europe again next season. But it all begins in Scotstoun this weekend, and I cannot wait to get out there in a Connacht jersey again.

Irish Independent

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