Tuesday 11 December 2018

We need to be clinical in the heat if we want to upset Kings on tour

Player's Diary: Denis Buckley

Bundee Aki. Photo: PA
Bundee Aki. Photo: PA

It's a fantastic time to be involved with rugby on this island - one year out from a World Cup and Ireland beat the All Blacks; it's a massive boost for every professional player across the board.

When you see the success that Joe Schmidt and his players have had it only motivates you even more. You want to be involved on occasions like last Saturday at Aviva Stadium.

Kieran Marmion. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran Marmion. Photo: Sportsfile

It makes you really want it. There are 12 months to go to the World Cup and there is still a lot of rugby to be played. It's exciting times for everyone.

I watched the game in Quinn Roux's house, we had dinner there and tuned in after. It was unbelievable stuff. It was great to see the pressure they put New Zealand under for the full 80 minutes. Ireland really turned it up a notch for that match and they got the result they deserved in the end.

I don't think I have seen a team do that to this All Blacks team. New Zealand did have chances, but Ireland controlled that as well. There was never too much broken field running, that's what the All Blacks thrive on.

Ireland beat them physically as well which goes a long way in those games. It was an incredible performance for 80 minutes, by numbers one to 23.

Huge

Kicking on from last season's Grand Slam, everyone was looking at this game for the last number of months, to be able to go and kick on from the win over England in Twickenham and get a win here was huge.

It gives you great momentum going into this season's Six Nations and building to the World Cup. Ireland are in a great place at the moment. It's exciting times for Irish Rugby and the supporters.

It was great to see Kieran and Bundee involved so heavily in the game and I'm sure the rest of the boys played their part in the build-up too.

We will hope to keep the good times rolling for the Connacht fans this week when we take on Southern Kings at Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

I played in South Africa last year. This time we are staying in Cape Town for the two weeks but travelling up and down, to Port Elizabeth for the Kings game and staying there for one night, then back down and we will be staying for two night in Bloemfontein for the Cheetahs. We travel home after that.

But for the majority of it we will be based in Cape Town. I had never been here before and it's definitely lived up to all expectations. There is a real buzz about the place. Everyone is really excited to be here.

But it is important to remember we are here to play rugby and it's not a holiday. We need to stay focused. It's a great time to go away for two weeks and travel around South Africa with all of your friends but we are going there to do a job. We need to make sure we are very professional in that respect.

The conditions will be quite difficult for us. I know last year when we played in Bloemfontein it was at altitude, but we played at 7pm. It's the summertime now in South Africa and it's going to be a 3pm kick-off for the Kings game. It's going to be incredibly hot, probably 30 degrees for the game. That is going to come into it.

The Kings have got a really good record at home. They have had some big results there. They play a running brand of rugby, run everything from deep and they go through phases. It's going to be a tough game.

If our defence is on the money, particularly against these guys, if we can control them defensively and limit the number of line-breaks we give away, we might be able to get the upper hand.

But if you start turning it into champagne rugby where both teams are playing loose, it will only play into their hands. We need to be really clinical in what we do. We need to have a strong set-piece and take our opportunities as they come.

I have played for Emerging Ireland in about 30-35 degrees heat before. That was a daytime kick-off in Tbilisi in Georgia. I played in a few pre-seasons in France in 25 degrees. But it is going to be right up there with the most difficult conditions I have played in. To flip that I have also played in -30 degrees in Siberia when we played in the Challenge Cup there. But Georgia is the hottest I have played in.

The thing is, for the Kings game it's in Port Elizabeth so it's not at altitude but the Cheetahs game the week after is at 5pm, which is still going to be incredibly hot, and on top of that it's going to be at altitude.

Struggled

I find the heat really saps me, I didn't mind the cold too much until about halfway through the second half of that game in Siberia, when it got so cold that I struggled with my breathing and that. But in the heat it just saps your energy quickly.

You need to be economical with your effort. You have to go pretty hard for as long as you can. But you need to pick your moments to use big bursts of energy because the heat really does affect the energy levels. You need to be well-prepared with nutrition and hydration and everything like that. If you are not careful you can be out of energy and cramping very quickly.

How you approach it mentally goes a long way. You have to acknowledge the harsh climate and be aware of it. But if you big it up to be too much of an issue then it becomes problem. It's just about getting the balance right. It's the same conditions for both teams.

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