Saturday 21 April 2018

We're ready for a huge battle with Scarlets for win

Kieran Marmion has been knocking on the door of the international team for some time
Kieran Marmion has been knocking on the door of the international team for some time

Dan McFarland

The boys might have had a week off and followed it up with their mini pre-season but it's been pretty much flat out for me over the past couple of weeks.

Saying all that I really enjoyed my experience of working with the Ireland Wolfhounds - the result didn't go our way but it was something different and gave me an alternative perspective to provincial rugby.

When you are in a camp like that there is an intense atmosphere but a good one. It's an atmosphere charged with optimism, lots of hope and lots of endeavour.

Because the 'A' side played only a week before the Six Nations started you get a lot of ambitious players who are jostling for places as they fight to get into the Six Nations team, or at least make an impression ahead of such a long tournament.

Ultimately we lost the game to a good Saxons side, but when it comes to a match like that it's very difficult for everyone concerned. Blending the preparation for the Six Nations with that of the Wolfhounds game means there's a lot going on.

There were a great deal of positives to be taken from that night ,and one obvious plus was the Connacht contingent getting their run-out for the national side.

Kieran Marmion, Nathan White and Eoin McKeon all showed good things. Although Kieran is still very young, he has been knocking on the door of the international team for a while now.


'Whitey' is a great guy and a fantastic player and it's a measure of the man that he comes in at his age to play his first game for the Wolfhounds after being talked of as one of the best tightheads in the country.

Considering what happened to him before the November Series it is a great achievement for him. Plenty of other players would have been hit very hard after getting injured right before the South Africa game, but he held his head high, did the rehab and now he's back.

Eoin has taken another step forward this year, showing some excellent play across different positions. He played well when he got his chance against the Saxons and hopefully we will continue to see that progress with Connacht.

His preparation time was also limited with the late call-up, but he didn't show it. He got through a huge amount of work, doing himself proud against a quality team.

It was also great to catch up with my old mate Simon Easterby when I was working with the Wolfhounds.

Myself and Simon went to school together at Ampleforth College in England - he was four years below me while his brother Guy, who also played for Ireland, would have been a couple of years ahead.

Lawrence Dallaglio was also in my year. We had a pretty decent crop of players back then.

We didn't get a chance to talk about the Pro12 game this week though. Simon was Scarlets head coach last year after a stellar career with the Llanelli side and it would be great to get one over on them this Sunday.

It's an important game for Connacht - it could play a major factor in who gets the all important sixth place come the end of the season, so we are totally focused on preparing for this key game.

They've only lost once this season in Parc Y Scarlets and that was to Toulon in the Champions Cup so we are under no illusions heading over, with a novel 12.45 kick-off thrown in as well.

Fit and available scrum-halves are pretty rare in the Sportsground at present and with John Cooney headed back east this week we might have to call on young Caolin Blade. Even Conor Lowndes in our sub-academy is injured, so if Kieran is not involved with Ireland he might be released in time to feature.

In terms of training, last week was mainly conditioning and skills focused, but this week our attention has turned totally to Scarlets and we will be well prepared.

They are always dangerous around the breakdown, and when you have serious operators like John Barclay in your side you will be pretty handy so we can't afford to let them have the upper hand there.

But that is just one of many battles we'll face.

While Ireland have a big tussle on their hands this weekend against the French in the Six Nations, the Guinness Pro12 bandwagon rolls on and if we can beat Scarlets, it would be a perfect beginning to this block of games.

Irish Independent

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