Monday 19 August 2019

Our aim is to continue our recent good run in must-win Cardiff clash

Pita Ahki, pictured playing for New Zealand at last year’s Hong Kong Sevens, has only been with the province since Monday but all the Kiwi lads are raving about him. Photo: Getty
Pita Ahki, pictured playing for New Zealand at last year’s Hong Kong Sevens, has only been with the province since Monday but all the Kiwi lads are raving about him. Photo: Getty

Denis Buckley

There has been a lot of rugby action with the November internationals taking place in recent weeks. You are missing playing, and even training, so it's great to be back in the thick of it this week.

Winning the last four games, we were on a bit of a run and had good momentum. We are looking to build on that but at the same time having a bit of a break and being able to tweak the game-plan has been good.

We feel we are starting at a new level again but the atmosphere is pretty good around here. Everyone is buzzing for this game against Cardiff and looking to build.

If we could win this weekend and away to Zebre, looking at the table it would leave us in pretty good stead going into European. We would be going into the tough inter-provincial derbies with a bit of form and that has a massive impact on the rest of the season.

Those games are a bit away but if we could get two Guinness PRO14 wins and then park that before the really tough period, it would definitely stand to us.

It's a long block of games now with nine fixtures in nine weeks, but within that we have the PRO14 and some big European matches.

You can plan ahead and break the games up into micro-units for little goals along the way, with the collective plan coming together gradually.

raving Pita Ahki came in this week, he's only been in since Monday and it's hard to judge someone until you see them in a game as opposed to training. But all of the Kiwi lads are raving about him. They rate him really highly and he was highly regarded back in New Zealand.

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It's great for the squad to get a big signing like that in during the season. It gives everyone a boost and increases the competition too, which is great.

I'm always battling with Denis Coulson and Pete McCabe for my jersey and I know competition helps me too. The three of us work well together, help each other out by looking at scrums and opposition, and things we do in training.

It's a good relationship between us and we are always looking to help each other improve. That translates right across the squad.

But when you take a step back from that, the team is the bigger picture and everyone is really good at that. We all try to help our direct opponents for the jersey, as well as trying to put our best foot forward.

This week, Cardiff obviously have the artificial surface at the Arms Park, and that makes for a quicker game. It's not difficult to scrummage on but it's different to scrummage there.

For them they are used it but at the same time we have played on surfaces like that before. We know what to expect and you may just have to concentrate on relying on the system and the unity of the scrum rather than individual battles. Historically we have had some good wins against them and some bad losses. They are a team that always stayed in the fight in the past and even this year you can get ahead but they will come back at you.

But a score can turn things completely like we saw this year when they got that last-minute try against us.

In terms of scrummaging they have some really good operators in the front-row. There is a lot of depth in their ranks and we have to prepare differently for their scrum because it depends on who they pick at the end of the day.

We prepare for every eventuality and then when the team is picked, we have our units meeting and talk it through and finalise on the tactics that we are using in this game.

It's an important game because if you look at the table a win is going to be beneficial for any team. But especially with where both teams are in the standings. A win would give them a boost and create a little bit of separation. It's a huge game for us and basically a must-win fixture for both sides. It's going to be difficult but if we perform well we are confident of victory.

If you start thinking too much about revenge, it can affect your performance on the day. You need to break it down, block down the white noise from the outside and just play the standalone 80 minutes.

But at the end of the day they got that last-minute try earlier in the campaign and it would be nice to come away with a win. But you try and not let revenge play a part.

Another side looking to get one over on an old foe is Ireland against Argentina. Ireland were very impressive against South Africa. It's going to be tough when you make 13 changes between two internationals, but coming off the field with a win over Fiji is always a big positive.

Going into this weekend they will have a lot of confidence, drawing from the first victory rather than last weekend's success at the Aviva Stadium. Ireland are in great form at the moment, they have a lot of players performing at a high level so they should win.

Argentina are a really good team as well. Against England they stayed in the fight for ages and they were always within one score of completely changing things.

England won it in the end but it could have swung the other way if one or two things had gone their way. It's a difficult opponent with a big scrum and big forward pack.

Argentina will try to scrum for penalties and I'm sure Ireland will be prepared for that. But it was a big test.

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