Tuesday 21 November 2017

'It will be a dream to pit my wits against serious operator Hayman'

Player Diary

Dave Kilcoyne training ahead of Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final clash against Toulon. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Dave Kilcoyne training ahead of Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final clash against Toulon. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Dave Kilcoyne

Our win against Toulouse was only three weeks ago, but Sunday's game cannot come quick enough for me. It feels like it's been an age coming around, but thankfully in a couple of days it'll be game time.

On a personal note, it would be huge to make it to a Heineken Cup final. It would be a career high, no doubt. It'd probably be the highest achievement in my career if we can make it.

Ultimately, I want to win one at an early age with Munster, alongside my friends, with the lads I grew up playing with. It's been a big ambition of mine since I started playing the game. I remember in 2008 when they brought the big screen into Limerick city. I'd love to be a part of an occasion like that.

Last year I played in the semi-final against Clermont and we didn't get the result we wanted. It was my first full year in professional rugby and I didn't really know fully what to expect. Hopefully this year I can take those experiences –and take last year as a lesson learned – and with a bit of luck the result doesn't replicate itself.

But before we can think about any of that, we have a massive test ahead of us in Marseille against this Toulon side.

If selected, I expect that Carl Hayman will probably start opposite me, but you'd have to expect an early introduction for Martin Castrogiovanni too. Replacing one seasoned international tighthead with another is a sign of a serious outfit. We'll have our work cut out for us.

REPUTATION

I've never scrummaged against Hayman before so I'm looking forward to pitting my wits against him. Growing up, he was one of the main guys I'd have watched. Being the New Zealand tighthead for so long he carved out quite a reputation for himself.

He is someone I would have looked up to as a young fella coming through the ranks, so a chance to scrum against him in a Heineken Cup semi-final is a dream. I can't wait to square up with him.

The day after our game with Toulouse I watched Toulon beat Leinster, but I haven't watched that game in full since. I try and clear the mind of rugby when I'm not on the pitch. We did a lot of video work with Axel this week, but my initial impression still remains: Toulon are a serious outfit.

They had a huge win against Perpignan last weekend, it was an impressive scoreline, so they are obviously in form. We have to be wary of their attacking threats, so it is vital that we have our set-piece right and that we don't allow them to build that momentum like they did against Leinster.

The fact that the game is not in their home stadium doesn't matter a jot. One thing for sure is that Marseille is a lot closer to Toulon than Castletroy. I'm sure they'll have a racket organised for us on arrival as usual, but I don't think we'll shy away from it. Sometimes I enjoy those kind of scenes.

I remember playing Clermont last year and that was the most hostile atmosphere I've ever encountered. We know what to expect from a French side who are as hotly supported as Toulon.

The last time Munster played Toulon was a little before my time, but I remember Mike Sherry saying that he couldn't get over the place over there: it was the hottest he has ever played a game. And that's a big factor for us.

I've being trying to acclimatise here by wearing extra layers and hoodies in the gym. I wore a few extra layers on the pitch during the week just to get used to operating at boiling point.

I know it has been pretty miserable out in France this week, but our weather gurus are saying it could be warm at game time. It caused players serious problems out there the last time with cramp and dehydration, so we have to have everything in place to avoid those problems. Whether it's lashing rain or cracking the stones, we'll be ready.

With the extra day and a Heineken Cup semi-final to prepare for this week, things have been charged up a little in our preparation. On Monday we had our usual mobility and weights in the morning. Normally ahead of a big week, we'd have a review in Mitchelstown too, but we had a big squad session in Cork on Tuesday instead. We had another pitch session yesterday and another one today, so I think they are trying to keep it fresh, away from meetings and on the pitch as much as possible.

The extra day is great though, it gives us that additional chance to get the bodies right ahead of the travelling, so we'll all be ready to rock on Sunday. It has been a fairly hectic few weeks, but we have still managed to have a bit of down time as a squad too. And we have all gotten big into the golf lately since the Masters – a lot of lads fancy themselves as Bubba Watson.

We played in Castletroy Golf Club on a few occasions and I am ashamed to reveal my handicap is shocking. Suffice it to say it is in double figures – high double figures. But we all soon realised that Paddy Butler is the one to watch. He is the real shark and actually played off scratch when he was younger. Playing with him is not good for the confidence and he fleeced us all.

We all heard a lot about Paul O'Connell's talents on the golf course going back to his teenage years, but I think a lot of it must have been hot air on his behalf. There wasn't too many birdies coming from his direction. He claims he was good, but I have my doubts.

So the humour in the camp is great. We got over the defeat to Glasgow with a good win against Connacht. Yeah, it was a scrappy game, but we got what we wanted from it. A bonus-point win up there against what can be a very dangerous side on their home patch has set us up nicely for a good cut at this weekend.

There is no doubt Sunday's challenge will be one of the greatest any of us have faced, but we all believe we are ready for it. We'll face it as a unit and hopefully we'll come through it together.

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