Thursday 18 January 2018

You have to trust in your skills when you face giant sides like Toulouse

Player Diary

Tiernan O’Halloran says that when James Connolly (pictured with the ball) scored the third try against Ulster it felt as if Connacht were back to winning ways. Picture: Sportsfile
Tiernan O’Halloran says that when James Connolly (pictured with the ball) scored the third try against Ulster it felt as if Connacht were back to winning ways. Picture: Sportsfile

Tiernan O’Halloran

It has been an exciting week around the province - we could feel the buzz build in Galway city towards tomorrow's massive game against Toulouse at the Sportsground.

We couldn't have asked for a better start to the week, to finally get that win over Ulster was a huge highlight for a lot of the guys.

And the manner of the victory was most pleasing for all involved.

There is a bit of history there, we hadn't beaten Ulster in a good few years. They were the only team last year that we didn't defeat, so we were delighted.

It was important to get that edge over them this time around - especially because they were unbeaten in the league so far this season. I know they were missing one or two, but so were we.

And you could tell by the reactions at the final whistle - and not only that, after James Connolly's try too - it just felt like we were back playing good rugby and things were really clicking for us again.

Everything feels right at the Sportsground right now but we know it only gets tougher in the weeks to come.

Off the field we had an important community visit to Seamount College in Kinvara on Monday. It is important, as role models in the community, to go out and show support for young people.


It's always great to go and meet the fans and they were happy to see us too. They welcomed us with an impressive guard of honour, and we really appreciated that. It was nice to go out and give something back and we took a lot from that day.

It is great to have Champions Cup rugby back in Galway again, especially as it's the first time we have qualified off our own bat. We want to put in a good performance in the competition and show that we deserve to be here.

It doesn't come any bigger or better than having the four-time champions at home in the opening weekend. Toulouse are the most successful team in European Cup history, and getting the win over Ulster last weekend gave us a good bit of confidence and momentum we needed coming into this game.

Toulouse are a big, strong, physical team. So we will look to trust in our skill-set once more - when you play teams like that, you look to play around them.

That was one of the first things that Pat Lam mentioned when we had our meetings earlier in the week. French teams are very physical and Toulouse are one of the biggest squads in Europe.

They are massive men so it's important that we use our game-plan wisely, because with guys that big you won't be able to just barrel your way through. It's on us to trust in our skills and use our footwork.

If we get that right it can help us to find space in open-field and that's what we thrive on. We want to get them running around the pitch because those big lads don't like to be running around all night.

People might question Toulouse's record in Europe in recent years, but you don't become a bad team overnight. They will always have that brilliant tradition. And just last weekend they ran Clermont close in Stade Marcel-Michelin, so we know what to expect.

Look at the Toulouse squad: they ooze world-class players. We have a few internationals in our squad, while they have about ten times the contingent in their team.

They have a bigger history and reputation than us in Europe, having played 150 Champions Cup games to our 18, so we have a good bit of respect for them.

They haven't been as successful in the competition in the last couple of years but I still think they are a massive team in Europe and one you have to take seriously because if you don't you can be made to look very silly.

It was a frustrating start of the season for us with three losses on the bounce. We know there was a lot of talk from the outside about our form but we never panicked because we knew what we needed to do - we trust in the process.

We back each other all the time and that never changed since our win over Leinster in the Pro12 final in May. And getting those two wins against Edinburgh and Ulster playing the type of rugby we know we can play was a big boost for us.

Our systems are there, and there is a huge amount of belief in them and in each other.

You don't want to be coming in to a European game off a couple of losses, so there is momentum there, and a lot of confidence.

We are back at home at the Sportsground which is where we love to play our rugby. We pride ourselves on our home performance and we don't want to let any team leave here with a win again this season.

They've brought in extra terracing and we are hoping for a big sell-out crowd to help us like they did last Friday against Ulster.

I remember a few years ago when Toulouse came here in the Heineken Cup, the atmosphere was incredible and that was Connacht's first time in the competition. There was a massive buzz around and people were really excited for it.

But now it's something different, and we come in as Pro12 champions. People have higher expectations. Hopefully this time the crowd will be incredible again. Against Ulster they really helped us through, especially in the last few minutes.

The buzz has been building and hopefully that will lead us into a massive performance tomorrow, I can't wait.

Irish Independent

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