Tuesday 19 November 2019

Robbie Henshaw: We have motivation to set record straight in return clash with Exeter

Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Edinbrugh’s Phil Burleigh at the Sportsground last weekend
Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Edinbrugh’s Phil Burleigh at the Sportsground last weekend

Robbie Henshaw

It was obviously really disappointing to lose our home record last week especially after the high of beating Munster the week before.

But as we do for all games, on Monday we went through the process of reviewing it and looking at where we need to improve, especially ahead of an important game against Exeter on Sunday.

It's a massive game for us. Our main priority is obviously top six in the league but one of our other big goals this season is to progress to the quarter-final in Europe.

Last Friday night was probably the worst conditions I've experienced in my whole career - right up from schoolboy level - so you can imagine how tough it was for both teams.

When we lost the coin toss, we knew it was going to be a tough challenge. You never want a wind like that at your back in the first half; it plays on your mind because you know you need to get points on the board for the second half.

Saying all that, I don't want to make excuses and neither do we as a team. There were a number of missed opportunities, and Edinburgh coped well with the conditions to get an early try in the first half.

They are a strong side who will be among the teams pushing for that important sixth place.

Target

It definitely wasn't a case that we weren't 'up' for this game as much as the Munster one. We knew how important a game it was for us. We got four points from Munster, and four points from the Edinburgh game was a massive target for us as well.

Our training last week was the best I've seen in a long, long time here at Connacht but we just didn't bring it through to game time. We know we are much better than that and it's now a case of showing that in the next game.

Afterwards the dressing-room was a pretty glum place to be, but Pat told us to remember that feeling and channel it towards getting a win this week and again when we get back to league action.

Exeter had a brilliant start to their season and, while they've lost a few of their games recently, we know from our visit to Sandy Park in October how determined they are in this competition. Like us, they'll be targeting a home quarter-final and success in Europe.

We've had a good look at them this week and gone over what we had done in preparation for the game earlier this season. Things didn't go their way last week against London Irish, but they have beaten some excellent teams in this campaign and are a dangerous side.

Outside of rugby it has been a busy couple of weeks for me.

I've been back to college this week, but with the Six Nations coming up I was also involved in the launch of the Aviva Schools' Fitness Challenge. It's a great initiative which is looking to test kids' fitness levels and ensure that the rates of heart disease in youngsters are kept to the bare minimum.

Any interested school can check it out on the Aviva health page, www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge. It's a great exercise, and any health initiative like this should be championed.

I was also told this week that I'm the lucky recipient of a Galway Sports Star award and I'm delighted that I'll be able to attend the ceremony on Saturday night with my family. It won't be a late one, though, as I'll have Exeter on my mind for the following day.

I love these Sunday games. I was talking to my dad earlier on in the week telling him about how I always loved early kick-offs at underage, so it's great to be getting out there before nightfall.

Nearly every game we play for Connacht is under floodlights so it's an interesting prospect to be hitting the Sportsground at 3.15.

However, there are drawbacks to a game like this too - you've got to pack your regular afternoon schedule into the few hours you have in the morning.

As a pro rugby player we have to follow strict guidelines on what we eat and when we eat, the times we get up and so on. On Sunday it is going to different for us considering how early the kick-off is.

I'll probably have to get out of bed around 8.0, get the first big feed into me and then at noon it'll be pasta and chicken or something like that. That would probably be the last bit of food we get before kick-off because we have to meet up, have our team meeting and then loosen up the muscles - fail to prepare, prepare for an injury.

This is going to be a massive one for Connacht. We have a huge chance of qualifying first in the group but first we have to beat the Chiefs and they are a quality side with some great players.

We feel we didn't do ourselves justice when we lost to them over in Sandy Park earlier in the season. They gave us a bit of a hammering that day and now it's our time to put those things right and if we needed any more motivation, there it is.

The home record may be gone, but we are still determined to keep racking up the W's on our own patch. Hopefully we'll see another bumper crowd pack out the Sportsground on Sunday.

The Connacht fans are brilliant and haven't let us down all season - so hopefully they will be there again on Sunday and we rediscover our best form and take the win.

Irish Independent

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