Monday 27 January 2020

Player Diary: With a decent bounce of the ball we'll be really competitive in Paris

A couple of minor tweaks needed to turn things round after derby defeat

Ronan O'Gara has ruled himself out of contention for the Connacht job
Ronan O'Gara has ruled himself out of contention for the Connacht job

Tommy O'Donnell

I know people probably think we're mad when we suggest we can take positives from a defeat like last weekend, but that's exactly what we did on Monday morning.

Being in a losing dressing room is never a nice place to be, but we all knew that we had a pretty harsh roll from the rugby gods in that game with Leinster.

Without doubt, the bounce of the ball never seemed to go our way all day; it was bizarre. It was one of those days that things didn't go our way, but I suppose you make your own luck at times.

We had opportunities to score that we didn't exploit and if we can nail down those things ahead of this weekend, we'll be in better shape.

Full credit must go to Leinster too: they did very well on the few mistakes that we made. They punished us when we slipped, so if we can limit those mistakes we will learn from that and we will be a bit more competitive in the games to come.

It was an incredibly physical game and a lot of players stood up with big performances. We just were let down on one or two errors, and that's where a game like that can get away from you.

But we kept our effort levels up right to the end and you can take the positives from it. And there are definitely work-ons to take from the negatives, which is a good thing too.


After the couple of weeks off due to concussion, I came back in the win against Zebre, and those two games were like chalk and cheese. The Zebre game was very open, we scored a few tries before half-time and the physicality was down as a result. In the game we had against Leinster, contacts and physicality were well up in the charts, so it was definitely a step up for me.

But it was great to be back in the Aviva again. This game was a bit different considering it was an early afternoon and getting home in the door at 9 o'clock from an away game was a bit strange.

The atmosphere was lively as we'd expected. It was hard to see the Munster fans until we scored our try, but then it was like, 'Wow, there is 50-50 Munster fans here, they're just sitting in different pockets around the stadium'.

The travelling support was great, it was just a shame that we couldn't deliver the result for them.

The start of this week was a bit different considering we have an eight-day turnaround.

We had our usual recovery and review on Monday, Tuesday was a down day, but it was a normal week from there on. What lads do on their day off differs across the board.

I usually go in and do a bit of rehab and upkeep on certain things. I do a small bit of video work, but if you go away, catch up on your own personal business, there is no pressure there either.

Because we had an emphasis on recovery on Monday and we had Tuesday off, there was a real noticeable edge to Wednesday's session. Everyone had their work done and a handful of days out from our first Champions Cup game of the season we were all raring to go in training.

But the good thing about playing an inter-pro rival the week before Europe is that everyone's game face has already been shown in the build-up.

A derby game is a great way to hone the senses, and to get your mind and body primed for the toughest challenge in club rugby. Considering our two Champions Cup games are bookended with inter-pro derbies, it tells you a lot about how intense things will be in the next few games.

It will be a late night in Paris too I'm sure. We have a 4.15pm kick-off local time on Sunday, and after that we have a six-day recovery time before Glasgow. So whatever way the game goes we have to get into recovery mode straight away and get back on the flight home to prepare for the Warriors.

But all minds are on facing the French champions, a club that has made no bones about trying to be the best team in Europe. They have gone about that by signing the best players in the world, and they have had an upward curve in their results in the last few years. It is going to be another tough game and the hard hits will definitely be there.

This could well be one of those tough games that we have to dig in, get through it and come away with a result. While we'll be ready for the heavy hits, we have to be smart too, we'll have to be ready to play rugby if we want to get a result from Paris.

A lot of the Top 14 clubs might be regarded as being real physical teams, but there is a bit more to this Racing team than that. I wouldn't be surprised to see them come into the game with a bright mentality.

If you look at the quality of players they have in the backs, they are well able to throw the ball around and they have an excellent offloading game too. Defensively, we will look to limit that, but I'm sure we will be tested up front first before they start to try and pick holes in us out wide.

Ahead of a big European game like this, there is the realisation that I'm going to have to be on top of my game.

It is vital that I focus on my own performance. Yes, I have to take on the guy opposite me, but I need to bring out the most physical person that I can be to face this challenge.

The name Ronan O'Gara has been often mentioned since the draw was made, and as one of the Limerick-based players, I wouldn't have known Rog as well as some of the Cork lads.

But I hope to be able to say hello to him after the game. The aim is to be able to say hi with a smile on my face rather than the other way around.

Irish Independent

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