Saturday 20 January 2018

We always want better and Scarlets is a real test

Connacht players, here training at the Sportsground, will be aiming for a first win of the campaign against Scarlets
Connacht players, here training at the Sportsground, will be aiming for a first win of the campaign against Scarlets

Dave Ellis

It's another huge game for us this weekend away to Scarlets. We have never won at Parc y Scarlets before and the last time a Connacht side beat Scarlets over in Wales was in 2004 but we don't focus on that this week. We know we have the ability to beat them but we need to get a lot right tomorrow.

Neither of us have had wins in rounds one, two or three, but last weekend we ended up in the unusual scenario of having to pack our bags and depart Parma at half-time - when the game was postponed due to adverse weather conditions.

It's difficult to know whether it was a good or bad thing for our players.

But from one point of view, the extra game-time should be a positive moving forward.

It's probably the first time I have gone through something like that in my coaching career so far. But when something unexpected like that arises, you just have to get back on the job, move on and get ready for the next one - similar to what we went through over in Enisei-STM last season with all the travel delays.

I don't think it's a stroke of good luck for Connacht either. Both of the teams were disappointed that they couldn't take the field in the second half despite the scoreline. And at the end of the day, you make your own luck.

Zebre were doing very well of course, leading 22-10 at half-time. They adapted to the conditions a bit quicker than we did and that allowed them to get in the ascendency early on. It was a bit of a topsy-turvy game and that's something that we have learned to expect when it comes to Zebre. Often when we play those guys it's back and forth and more like a badminton match than a game of rugby.


From a coaching perspective, I am always looking for something better from our players. But as a team we did put a few nice moves together during the first 40 minutes at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi and we have got a few things to work on now. Every week we have something to work on no matter what the result.

It's good to have those, so that you can iron them out before game time. They are all parts to the puzzle; if you make an error here or there then you can fix that. You are building a bit of a bank up then, and it all bodes well for the future when players find themselves in those scenarios all over again. But you wouldn't want to be repeating your mistakes, they are the things you learn from and you learn not to do them again.

Our main focus this week is just sticking to our shape against Scarlets. We need to work on that, in attack and defence, because it just won't be good enough against a side like them.

The level is up a little bit in the Pro12 this season. Everybody is really hungry and they are looking for those extra points, while the weather is that bit better before the tough Christmas period. So it's difficult for every side to pick up points in the early stages of the season.

You have to forget about being champions. You must move on and work back to the whole one-match-at-a-time scenario.

Scarlets will always be expansive, especially when they are playing at Parc y Scarlets. They are a talented bunch, and they are probably finding their rhythm as well. A couple of games haven't gone their way, but they are getting there.

If you haven't got your first win in around Round 3 or Round 4, teams starts to get very hungry for those points. And this weekend will be the perfect example of two sides desperate to win.

It all depends how you treat the pressure though. You have to learn from it if you want to succeed. We have had years of being in situations where things haven't gone our way. Now we have a group of players who know their way out of this situation - they just have to find a way to do it.

We want to do the right thing by ourselves as well as the supporters too. We really want to get things going. There is a long way to go in the season and there are so many things that are working; we just have to put it all together on the day.

With every team in this competition, if you go into games thinking you're not going to be able to win it's a waste of time being there. We are as hungry as everyone else. And we hope to register our first win tomorrow in Wales.

Irish Independent

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