Monday 23 April 2018

Off to a good start but we need to cut out errors

David Johnston impressed against Treviso last weekend
David Johnston impressed against Treviso last weekend Newsdesk Newsdesk

Coming away with four points from last weekend's clash with Treviso was the start we were after, and we are very keen to make it back-to-back victories with a win on Sunday against Ospreys.

Looking in from the outside it might appear that we struggled to win at Irish Independent Park, but in the end we played some very good rugby and thanks to two tries from CJ Stander we took the honours.

All week long the focus was to make sure that we got off to a winning start and we achieved that. We'd take that on day one of the new season every year.

We were particularly happy to see a lot of things that we worked on in pre-season transferred on to the park, especially around our shape, width and speed in attack.

On the other hand, we let ourselves down a bit with the number of handling errors and turnovers we had.

Without doubt out accuracy wasn't where it should have been. We are disappointed with that and we have put a big emphasis on that this week in training to make sure we're sharper when we arrive in Swansea for Sunday's game.

When you do all of the good work in the build-up, you need to be able to finish it off when you get inside the opposition's 22.

Traditionally our lineout has been a great launch-pad for us and at the weekend a lot of our best attack came off lineouts.


It was pleasing to score a top-quality counter attack try after a number of impressive phases.

There were a lot of penalties awarded to both sides in the scrum which didn't help our flow. It was more frustrating that anything, especially in the last quarter, when we felt we were in a position to put Treviso under pressure.

Defensively we were pretty solid in Cork. In pre-season we were particularly disappointed with the Connacht game, but the London Irish game was a bit more reflective of where we feel we are at.

With the exception of the first 15 minutes against Treviso where we lacked the line speed that we have worked on in pre-season, we were reasonably satisfied. For that brief period we were under a small bit of pressure but other than that I think we were comfortable.

We played the game in the right areas and that took the pressure off us. Then we had nine forced turnovers on the day, which wasn't a bad return. We're looking to be more positive in the way we defend.

It was very exciting at the weekend to see three debutants all acquit themselves very well. Our two academy guys in the centre, Rory Scannell and David Johnston did really well, while John Madigan worked very hard in the second row.

We now know these guys can step up when they are needed

We'll probably see another debut this week from Mark Chisholm and that's one I'm looking forward to. Mark hasn't been with us that long, but he's a quality player.

His leadership and presence really stands out. He understands the lineout really well, he's talked up a bit already this week, and when he speaks you see the standards he expects. It's really exciting to see him involved this weekend.

With himself and Francis Saili arriving there is a huge sense of freshness around the squad and that's really exciting. Hopefully we'll see that transferred on to the pitch this weekend.

But this is one of the toughest tests we'll face this season. This week we've spoken about how difficult it can be to play the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium and that it's a true test of where a player is at. We really get to see what players are made of, where they are physically and mentally.

They beat us twice last season and we had to play at our absolute best to beat then in the semi-final.

They are one of the best sides in the Pro12. They are strong defensively, they have massive line-speed and are really physical.

They work really hard in attack and have really impressive subtleties in their game that challenge you right across the pitch. They are one of those teams when you analyse them closely you realise how good they actually are.

But we're pretty happy; I think we're well prepared and well focused. If we can get the type of performance we got last week, and increase our intensity and physicality and add in some more accuracy, we should be in a good place to push hard on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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