Friday 19 January 2018

Huge chance to make amends for Toulon

Non-performance in last year's quarter-final weighs heavily on our minds - we know we let the fans down

Shane Jennings
Shane Jennings
Shane Jennings and Sean O'Brien in action during training

Shane Jennings

It has been the biggest week of our season and everybody is pumped up and ready for tomorrow's game versus Bath Rugby. I've been here a while now and have seen weeks come and weeks go, but I have to say this has been a really good week.

Player Diary

First of all, having everybody back in the club with the sole focus on Leinster is a huge thing.

It is also rare that we would be at this stage of the season with it all on the line. Be it the race for the top four in the Pro12 or the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, the games between now and the end of the season are all cup finals. The immediate focus is on Bath.

We started the week off-site in Wicklow, coming together for a three-day camp. We met up on Sunday afternoon to reconnect the whole squad together after a long Six Nations campaign, with the sole focus on Bath.

The aim I suppose was fairly straightforward. With lads away for the guts of eight weeks with Ireland and with no Pro12 game in which to play your full hand ahead of the Bath clash, we needed something that would let us prepare without distractions. Sometimes a change of scenery is good too.

We had a number of meetings and training sessions and had the chance to recover from the Glasgow game while also having a bit of craic together.

The highlight of the few days was seeing the Academy syndicate led by Cathal Marsh taking home the winnings in a Grand National-type horse event we had on the Sunday night.

He believes that his syndicate should spend their winnings in Las Vegas but it is more likely to get them a free lunch in Dundrum, considering the total amount!

We managed to get through a lot of detail in terms of analysis on Bath and what type of game they have been playing in recent weeks in the Aviva Premiership. Like ourselves they suffered with lads away with England and lost three on the bounce but have now won two in quick succession so are back to their pre-Six Nations form.

And it is on that form that we focused - the form and the patterns that they showed in those games before they lost lads to the Six Nations. It was form that had them at the summit of English club rugby.

And then you look at how their key lads took that form with them and really grabbed their chances with Stuart Lancaster's side.

So what goes on in these meetings? You would be highlighting the opposition strengths and how to negate them, and also trying to see where there might be potential areas that we could attack them.

They will have done similar on us. It really is like a game of chess such is the depth of analysis. In summary, though, they are a very well-balanced team and have strength in depth in their squad.

Having studied them, like all teams, they have certain patterns which we feel they rely on. They have a strong set-piece game, which they try to impose on opposition, especially in the scrum where they try to gain access into the game by getting penalties to get the scoreboard ticking over.

They have a huge pack - and that can be both an advantage and we are hoping a disadvantage. We must try and work them hard at scrum time and not allow them to get their maul going. If we can stop that and get their pack to play at a pace that they are not comfortable at and move them around, we feel we have a chance.

That being said, Bath have quality throughout their team and if we allow them to get ball, we will have a long afternoon. Their backline is impressive and they have shown good form of late. Players like Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson have real pace and good feet so we must not allow them any time on the ball.

George Ford is key for them at 10: if given time and space he can bring players into the game around him. They run a lot of plays through 10 with hard line runners and players out the back so we must be alive to all threats and more than anything we must make our first up tackles and physically impose ourselves.

It's going to be a fantastic occasion at the Aviva. As a team we really want a chance to rectify what happened last year in Toulon and make up for not performing.

That's the carrot, but before any of that talk we want to give our fans something to cheer about. This time of year is great, because we all have something tangible to aim for. We can either have five games left in our season or nine games.

I know what we all want in the club so hopefully this is the start of a big few weeks for us.

Irish Independent

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