Wednesday 22 November 2017

Only place to vent frustration after Scotstoun is on the pitch tomorrow

Player diary: Tommy O'Donnell

Tommy O’Donnell among team-mates at training ahead of tomorrow’s game against Cardiff. Photo: Sportsfile
Tommy O’Donnell among team-mates at training ahead of tomorrow’s game against Cardiff. Photo: Sportsfile

Tommy O'Donnell

They say there is nothing like a defeat to get the mind focused on the job, but that's not the kind of loss anyone would like to experience in Glasgow last weekend.

Thankfully, we haven't had too many of those sort of defeats in the last year or so, but any time you show up and don't deliver the physicality needed to be competitive at this level, you have to be disappointed with your day - both as an individual and as a team.

The only saving grace is that we don't have to wait too long to get back into the action and shake off that feeling this time. Our last loss came against Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 final in May, and we all had to stew with that one for a few months. This time we have Cardiff Blues coming to Thomond Park tomorrow and we get to exorcise those demons straight away.

Although we are looking forward to getting back on the pitch, we still had to sift through the game last week and see where we went wrong. If you don't search for answers you'll never learn from your mistakes. Looking back at the game it was clear to see that Glasgow came at us hard early on and were determined to lay down a real marker against us.

Steely Maybe the way last season's games against them went had an effect on this - losing four times to us cannot have been too nice for them - and they went on and showed their steely side at the weekend. Fair play to them, they deserved their win.

From our point of view, we knew that was coming, but we still couldn't match their intensity and that's the disappointing thing. That should be the very first target that you aim for on a rugby pitch - your attitude has to be spot on and ours was off the mark. That's not good enough.

We were ten points down before the game had hardly warmed up and with that advantage they were able to squeeze us and force the errors as we chased the game. On a usual day each team has their period of dominance and then the other side has a bright spell, but last weekend we barely had five consecutive minutes that we could call dominant.

Despite the long periods on the back foot I thought we took our two tries pretty well. Darren Sweetnam did well to put Rory Scannell over in the corner for the first one and at that stage it seemed as if we might be able to lift ourselves a bit, but it never really materialised.

Chris Farrell has made a big impact since his arrival and he was on his toes for the intercept try, but it's a shame that we couldn't kick on after either score.

Monday morning's review was a session I wasn't really looking forward to, but it was quite a constructive couple of hours. There was lots of honesty around the place and we knew we hadn't delivered as a unit - other than the scrum which went very well.

We could all see where we had slipped up - the physicality required was absent and that meant we weren't at it defensively or in attack - so we took note of it, parked it and went to work on getting ready for the Blues game tomorrow.

There is usually a bit of a dark cloud around after you lose a game, but Rassie was quick to remind us that the mid-week sessions are not the place to release that frustration - the pitch tomorrow is the only place you can really do that.

It was clear that we had plenty of work to do this week, so that's where the focus went.

For myself I had a good bit of homework to do in the last few days. Even without Sam Warburton, who is injured at the moment, Cardiff are regarded as having a very strong back-row. Our old Munster team-mate Nick Williams is a huge threat if he is given time and space to carry into, Josh Turnbull and Olly Robinson are real physical players on the flanks, while Josh Navidi is one of the busiest No 7s in the PRO14.

We had a quick look at their win over Connacht at the weekend where their defensive effort was top notch and they took the chances that came their way. I think they were over 95 per cent in tackle success in Galway which is an impressive return, so we know that we will have to be patient and accurate before the chances come our way at Thomond Park.

They have a lot more weapons to call on than just being a powerful unit too, with players like Alex Cuthbert, Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo in the back line there's plenty of threats there if they get a sniff.

It is also fresh in our minds that they beat us at home last season too. We had gotten off to a great start to the season with a win at Scarlets, but they did a job on us at Irish Independent Park, which was not what we were after. That shouldn't happen to Munster sides as home no matter who we are playing. Those couple of losses will be in our minds when the whistle goes tomorrow.

While we have one or two injuries to contend with in the squad at the minute, a few of the lads are close to returns, while the lads that were touring with Ireland and the Lions are chomping at the bit to get involved too. I'm sure it was tough for them sitting out last weekend and watching it unfold, but guys like CJ, Conor and Pete will make a big impact when they come back.

We are entering a pretty busy time of the season too, with important games in the PRO14 and the Champions Cup, and everyone wants to play their part in those games. But it is vital that we don't let our standards fall off in any game. There can be no repeat of Scotstoun this season and we have to get back to winning ways tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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