Saturday 18 November 2017

Tommy O'Donnell: Relaxation is over as we ramp up to face a busy few months ahead

Player Diary

It is always hard to get past Conor Murray and Beauden Barrett did well to do so Picture: Sportsfile
It is always hard to get past Conor Murray and Beauden Barrett did well to do so Picture: Sportsfile

Tommy O'Donnell

Ireland's games with New Zealand and Australia have stolen all the headlines in the last week or so, but our focus is firmly on our preparation for tomorrow's game with Treviso.

That said, last Saturday I was tuned in to see the All Blacks game at the Aviva Stadium. I stayed at home and watched it in the comfort and warmth of the sitting room, and it really was a good way to spend the last full weekend I'll have off for the rest of the year.

I think the one thing you noticed from moment one was the physicality; it was incredible, and right from the start it was easy to see that both sides were up for the challenge.

Looking on, it seemed to me that Ireland were a bit unlucky throughout the game. They had so much possession but they just couldn't get the try that would have swung momentum their way. If they did manage to cross the whitewash - considering everything that happened in Chicago - it could have set them on the road to victory and maybe edged opened the floodgates a bit.

Certainly, at times Ireland had them on the rack, they got in behind them but just couldn't convert or get the downward pressure on the ball after they did cross the line. If they're honest New Zealand will feel that they got away with it on one or two occasions when Ireland pushed very hard.


Then at the other end, the All Blacks showed a couple of pieces of ruthless attack and that proved the difference in the end. It reminded me a bit of our game against Leinster. We were the team that had a good few chances, but Leinster made the most of their opportunities and converted of a scrum just like New Zealand did.

Beauden Barrett's try was a great example of that. He is deceptively quick and he is a brilliantly balanced runner. It is always hard to get past Conor Murry on the outside like that and he did really well to do so. He probably should have touched it down quicker and not tried to run it in behind the posts, because Johnny Sexton almost caught him out. But they were ruthless in that moment, took a great outside line and got away. That moment alone showed why he was named World Rugby's Player of the Year.

After the game I was thrilled to hear that Rory Scannell has also been called up to the Ireland squad.

He has been playing unbelievably well, and since he started on this run in the team last season he has been incredible for us. He has all the attributes that a 12 needs: he can run; he can kick; and he can tackle really well in defence. It is great to see him up there and this week working with the rest of the squad in Carton House will really stand to him.

As well as enjoying my armchair, we had a nice weekend with the family. My parents' 35th anniversary was last weekend and it was my dad's birthday also, so we had a nice celebration together in Cork on Friday night. We spent the evening around town, looking at the Christmas lights and generally taking in the atmosphere around the place. It was a lovely break.

But come Monday I hit the ground running again and the real hard work recommenced. We did our main gym lift of the week early on Monday and followed that up with a short recap of the Maori game, just to look at things that we did well and a few things that we could improve on.

After lunch we moved on to Treviso and had a look at how they set up in key moments. We had a light session on the field, ran through some of our plays, our kicking game and laid out a few plans of attack for tomorrow.

Monday was busy, but Tuesday was just as jam-packed. We did another weights session, before we broke into our units for some organisational work. The afternoon then comprised of one of our main pitch sessions of the week, where we ran through a lot of our attack play, our mauling as well as a good bit of set-play work.

Wednesday is never as hectic - the week is front-loaded so as to aid the recovery process to have us right to face Treviso tomorrow - but we were still in again for our big defensive session with Jacques, which was a big focus for us as always.

In so many ways defence is key in this game, especially considering that Treviso ran Cardiff very close last time out, and in all reality they should have beaten them in that game. Any time you score four tries you expect to win the game, so even when they were down men due to the internationals, they were really dangerous. We need to be very wary.

Even if we look at the last two times we've played them in the Pro12 they have been really tough games. Last season we won 18-13 in Cork and then it was even closer in Italy when we just edged a 16-13 clash. That was a horrible day to play rugby and it was no surprise that it was tight, but it is important that we are ready for that kind of grind again tomorrow.

This is the type of game that can go astray if you don't approach it with the right mindset. They are hard at the breakdown and bring a real bite to the physical contact. If we are not accurate with the ball and if we don't get on top early on it will encourage them, and that's the last thing we want. This needs to be a first-to-80th minute effort and whatever way it falls after that, as long as we win we'll be happy.

Tomorrow is one of those days that you'd love to be a rugby fan. We're on at 2pm in Thomond Park and then at 5.30pm Ireland play Australia. It has the makings of a great day in Limerick, with plenty of time to take in both of the games. I'd say we'll probably all watch the game afterwards too, so that's a bit of a bonus for us.

Irish Independent

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