Sunday 21 January 2018

I've a 50-50 chance of playing . . . so fingers crossed I can contribute

Kieran Marmion scores the ninth try in last weekend’s Zebre demolition. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Kieran Marmion scores the ninth try in last weekend’s Zebre demolition. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Denis Buckley

Last Saturday's win over Zebre was a real clichéd rollercoaster ride of emotions for me. Up the first incline for our early try; down the other side when I hurt my foot; around the loop-the-loop when Zebre scored twice; a slight relief when we got back in the game; before I crashed back down to earth and limped off injured before half-time.

The important thing is we finished the game with five points in the bag, but from a personal point of view my injured foot has left me touch and go to take part in one of the biggest games in Connacht's history. After missing the run-in to last season, this is the last place I want to be.

Thankfully, I haven't picked up anything too serious. This injury is not to the same foot that I had problems with last season, which is a good start and I had a couple of scans early in the week, which were a big relief to me. The X-ray showed no breakages, and the MRI scan showed up minimal damage to the ligaments and tendons.

It happened after about ten minutes into the game. I had my foot planted with pressure going though my big toe area. Unfortunately, someone behind me fell on to my foot and drove that part of the foot into the ground. It was a real simple thing to happen.

I was in a bit of discomfort with it at that stage, but it eased off a bit after some treatment on the pitch. At that stage we had just gone 14-7 down, and when you're facing that kind of a scenario adrenaline does an awful lot for you.


I was able to run around for a while, but after another 15 minutes or so I had to call it a day. By that time we had four tries in the bag so the job was almost done, but even then my foot had swollen and I couldn't run any longer and couldn't scrum any more so I was no use to the team. With a big game in France to come the smart thing was to come off at that stage, so I'm just hoping now that I'll be able to get back in time to get on the plane.

The recuperation work began almost immediately. I put on a moon boot for a few minutes and watched some of the second half, but even before the game was over I was in with the physio getting the treatment started. I spent all day Sunday and Monday icing the foot, so right now I'll just have to wait and see how it settles down.

All week, it's really been a 50-50 chance whether I'll play or miss out on another big game.

When you're sitting on your backside icing an injury you have plenty of time to do some homework, so I've had a good look back at last week's game. We were a little bit sloppy - especially at the start - and when you're expected to win and score lots of tries, you have to start well.

Zebre have had some big results in the past, and they have shown that they can come good if they get ahead early and win the arm wrestle. They are pretty good when they get a sniff.

Maybe in a way we got off to too good a start with Matt's try after just a minute, but ten minutes of them dominating seemed to be the shock that we needed. After we went behind I thought we did pretty well, took our chances when they materialised and the good play of our outside backs got us over the line. It was job done and we moved on quickly to the Toulouse match.

Listening to the media and friends and family there is so much talk of what we need, what will get us through and what won't. We're ignoring all that, and we are looking at this as an opportunity to win in France and qualify for the quarter-finals.

We are going with confidence. The last time we were over there we beat Toulouse, and we have already beaten them this season too. To repeat that we have to be on the money as a collective and I'm confident that we have the ability to win it. It's just up to us to play to our strengths.

Of course it is going to be very tough but it's definitely achievable. We have had a few things to look at and work on this past week, and we have identified a few things that we can try and make the most of.

They've got a great scrum and their maul is really powerful. Straight away that's two areas we have to be good at. If you let some of their big forwards get momentum going they can be really dangerous. But if you look out the back there is huge quality there as well.

With a pack that big, if we can play with a high intensity we believe we can cause them trouble as we have done in the past. We want to negate their strengths and play to ours: we can't get into an arm wrestle with them because we'll come second; but if we can turn it into a fast, expansive game, maybe that's where we can shine.

As I've already mentioned, our target is to win the game, as it always is. If we were to win with a bonus point we would top a really tough pool. Going in to the game with that in mind is a really exciting prospect. Win, score four tries and we win a pool with Wasps and Toulouse in it. We'd even have a chance of hosting a quarter-final in the Sportsground too, and we'd fancy our chances of matching anyone on our own patch. But our goal in Europe all season has been to qualify for the knockout stages and that remains the focus this week ahead of a really tough test.

To put it simply, we are going to France to win; we are going there to play our game and whatever way the points fall after that we'll just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed I'll make it.

Irish Independent

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