Thursday 22 March 2018

Nothing can be taken for granted on Italian tour

Rob Penney

It is good to head away to Italy for the week and, while it is a great opportunity for the group to spend time together, we must not lose sight of the primary objective – to win two matches.

We know from before that will not be easily achieved over here and we also know from this competition that you can never look beyond your next game. Accordingly we will not be looking beyond this evening's match against Zebre – that is the main focus for the group when we will try to build on our encouraging start against Edinburgh.

We know Zebre are still searching for their first win, but they have shown themselves to be a gutsy side and they have been very close to achieving that victory. They will be very anxious to produce a big performance in front of their own supporters and we know we will need to produce a solid display to get the points.

They had a good pre-season campaign in France and Italy and will have been very disappointed not to have taken a bonus point at the Sportsground at the weekend. I'm sure they will feel there are a lot of lessons they can take from that game and use them to their advantage against us.

But we are also buoyed by our start to the campaign – it was very encouraging to take the form we displayed in the pre-season fixtures into our first competitive outing at Musgrave Park.

Regardless of how well a game goes, you will always feel there is room for improvement and we have identified some areas where we feel we can do better.


But it was a bright start and a good hit-out, and confidence has been high among the group this week.

It was good to see plenty of tries being scored again.

Of course we were disappointed to have conceded tries in the second half, but this is a competitive league and all teams are capable of exploiting any openings. We will need to be on our guard in Italy and we will be taking absolutely nothing for granted.

We were delighted, as I've said before, to be able to pair these two games in Italy and all credit to our team manager, Niall O'Donovan, for the work he did in making this happen.

The group is looking forward to the camp and aside from getting work done on the training paddock, it will also be an excellent opportunity for players to bond and to plot our course of the season. The change of environment is always good for a group and we are looking forward to getting a lot of work done.

Of course it won't be just the players who are hard at work as the management will also be busy finalising the squad for the Heineken Cup. That will not be an easy task, as I have outlined before, as there are quite a lot of factors to be taken into account.

A lot of players have put their hand up for selection in the pre-season games and also against Edinburgh and I would hope some more will do that this evening against Zebre.

But that is one of the jobs that must be done next week and hopefully by the time we start that process, we will have a win over Zebre under our belts and will be preparing to wrap up our trip to Italy with a victory over Treviso.

Irish Independent

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