Wednesday 22 November 2017

Win at Parc y Scarlets would be another massive statement

Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against Italy
Robbie Henshaw in action for Ireland against Italy

Player Diary - John Muldoon

This is an unusual change in my career - we're entering the final quarter of a season with Connacht still in contention on both fronts.

Since I started playing for the province we have rarely enjoyed this much success in a season and on Sunday we will be looking to keep our destiny in our hands by winning at Parc y Scarlets.

We have four games in 19 days and we want to come out the other end still in full control of our qualification for next season's Champions Cup - that's the aim for this block of games.

I'm just raring to go, and from what I saw in training over the last two weeks the other guys can't wait for another hit out.

As part of our preparations for Sunday's game, we went to Carrick-on-Shannon RFC last Friday and saw the future of Connacht Rugby.

It was definitely the highest numbers we've had at one of our training sessions so far and it was great to see their enthusiasm for the game. We are seeing that everywhere in the province now.

There was more time on the road on Saturday when I travelled to Cork with Jake Heenan for the Mazda Rugby Roadshow, along with Munster's Ivan Dineen.

But we made sure we caught the Six Nations games as well while we were there.

Understand

One thing I can't really understand is why the four-try bonus point hasn't been brought into the competition yet.

Ireland were clinical and did what was required of them, and Robbie Henshaw was brilliant once more. His physicality and brute force in both attack and defence were immense.

When you're watching himself and Jared Payne it is easy to forget who they have had to replace.

For a long time Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy were tough to separate as the most capped international partnership, now it's up to Robbie and Jared to click and fill that void. Considering it's just their second game together, they've been brilliant.

From an Irish point of view it was job done in Rome - now the real test awaits against the French. Honestly I think they will beat France.

The Welsh lost to the English, and that could bode well for us from a Connacht point of view. There are a good few Scarlets on that team, but saying that we won't be taking anything for granted against them.

We have had two hard weeks to prepare for this one; the intensity levels have been on the rise all week in training. We have aimed to peak for Sunday, but it's weird to have such a long wait and then the game starts at 12.45.

An early kick-off is no excuse for either side, but I remember when I was at the Pro12 launch and I saw the Welsh TV numbers and they seem to have their peak viewing figures for that time on a Sunday. I suppose money talks in this game.

Another thing about playing so early is the preparation - bed early, up early, power nap and game. On Saturday we will be eating around 7.0 and then heading to bed nice and early that night.

We will probably get up around 7.30 for some food on Sunday morning, then I'll be heading back to bed for an hour or so and off to the game after that. Everything changes when you have such an early kick-off.

I don't ever remember playing a game at 12.45.

For the game itself, we are in absolutely no doubt of what we will be facing against the Scarlets. They know they need a win and we are expecting a hugely fast and physical encounter over there.

I don't think we've ever beaten them in their new stadium and they certainly won't want to think about letting us leave with the four points this time either.

They do have those internationals missing but with John Barclay, who is extremely unlucky not to be seeing game-time with Scotland, they are still a serious outfit.

But we are going out there to win and confidence is high around the Sportsground.

We are going to have a few guys gone off with Ireland as well but the lads taking their places know the huge opportunity they have against Scarlets.

Some of them played in the win over the Ulster Ravens last Friday and they showed then they want their opportunity.

The next few weeks have the potential to be very special for Connacht.

We've had our mini pre-season since we got back from the break to get ourselves prepped, so it is time to get down to business and see what we can do when the pressure really comes on.

With three of our next four games away in Wales this won't be an easy block, but if we can keep a hold of sixth in the Pro12 standings and keep pushing up the table we will be in a very good place.

We need to keep winning and looking ahead, rather than worrying about who could be catching us from behind.

A win over Scarlets in Wales would be another massive statement and we know what that would do for our confidence.

We are within touching distance of making history in Connacht and with a Challenge Cup quarter-final also to look forward to I can't wait for the action to restart.

Irish Independent

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