Wednesday 20 November 2019

New leaders are stepping forward and that bodes well for the future

Referee Andrew Brace is bowled over as Connacht’s Darragh Leader escapes the tackle of Dan Baker of Ospreys
Referee Andrew Brace is bowled over as Connacht’s Darragh Leader escapes the tackle of Dan Baker of Ospreys

Last weekend's win in Ospreys was pretty special and to leave Wales as joint top of the table was mission accomplished. But we still have so much to prove and plenty of games to win before we've achieved anything.

We could be sitting with five wins from five had the Glasgow game gone our way too, but we won't complain.

When we sat down at the start of pre-season we knew we'd have to do well while the rest of the teams were down a few faces at the World Cup. We are where we want to be, but it could be a small bit better.

Now that we have gathered those vital points we are keen to show we are a good team and that we deserve to be at the top.

We have to go out now and carry on this form, show we are there for a reason. We think we're good enough and we need to show that in the next few weeks and keep the results coming.

Our win at Ospreys was much more than four points for us as we've had a couple of tough games over there in the past. Early in my career I was involved in wins against them, but that was our first win at the Liberty Stadium.

They scored a try early on and we worked ourselves back into the game very well. Towards the end it looked like we were in control and we felt we wouldn't lose it. That was a good feeling, to close out the game in that manner.


We've had a few tight defeats at the death in the past, but that was the most controlled we've felt.

It's good to win games like that, especially because we have a very young squad. In the first couple of weeks we have seen young lads take a bigger share of the game-time. Last week Tom McCartney was out, I was on the bench and Aly Muldowney is only breaking back in to the team now with the competition.

The average age of the squad the last day was 25 and the back-row averaged 23. Unfortunately I am ruining their numbers - as the lads keep reminding me.

I did find it tough on the sidelines, though. I had one of the analysis iPads, which was on a ten-second delay so I was able to watch what they were doing defensively and at lineouts.

Being on the bench also meant I wasn't captain for the day, but Tiernan O'Halloran was very unfortunate to only last 15 minutes in his first day as skipper.

From the start of the week I took a back seat, I let him have his say. Tiernan did his thing, his way. He has come on a long way in the last couple of years: he is getting more mature with every game; he's doing lots of talking, keeping lads in line. It was a great experience for him.

Tiernan took the lead along with Eoghan Masterson, who was our pack leader for the day. Eoghan is a young fella who is such a positive influence around the place.

His leadership ability definitely outweighs his youth. He may have been the second youngest player in the pack last weekend, but everyone still looks up to him.

He captained the Eagles last year and he did a great job. He has a great manner about him on and off the pitch and is a real scholar of the game.

Eoghan is a Connacht captain in waiting. The way he conducts himself, the way he acts and does everything, he will be an excellent captain I'm sure.

He's already is a leader for us, but there is still lots more to come from him.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's game, we are all ready for a massive physical test against Edinburgh. Being coached by a South African, Alan Solomons, and with so many South African players, Edinburgh are really influenced by the Springbok game.

They are physical, in your face; they don't have an awful lot of creativity and deception - and I don't mean that as a lack of respect, that's just the way they play. You have to be prepared to get stuck in with them.

They are excellent kickers: they are producing the highest percentages in the league. They have a big scrum, a big maul and a strong lineout, so we expect a big forward battle with plenty of carries up the centre.

It's a 'this is our game-plan, can you stop us?' mentality. It's up to us to do that.

The weather is not promised too good either, which isn't ideal. Last year it was something similar and we had a disappointing night. We are looking to remedy that, but if we do we'll earn it.

It was a real boost to have Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White back training with us early this week. It won't take long for them to integrate themselves back in and they will have huge parts to play for us after their World Cup adventure.

I'm sure Connacht fans are looking forward to seeing Robbie link up with the likes of Bundee Aki and Craig Ronaldson, while the pack will also welcome Nathan back into the fold.

I'm delighted to see Bundee in such good form. He was mighty impressive when he arrived last year, but the effects of his ankle injury seemed to set him back a bit.

The benefit of a full pre-season with us is evident and he can really get our back line firing. Hopefully himself and the lads with the big numbers on their backs will do the business for us tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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